VITAS Healthcare, a subsidiary of Chemed Corp. (NYSE: CHE), has expanded deeper into the Miami market with a new inpatient unit. The company expects the unit to serve more than 750 patients each year.
The newly-constructed MedSquare Kendall facility is designed to provide inpatient and respite care in the Miami area with a home-like environment for patients and their families, along with 24/7 access to an interdisciplinary care team of a physician, nurse, social worker and bereavement expert.
Each of the 16 patient rooms in the hospice unit features technology such as a dedicated iPad and smart TV to keep patients virtually connected with caregivers and family members. The inpatient unit also features a children’s playroom, shared kitchen and family rooms and a meditation room with services such as music and hydrotherapy, pet visits and specialized care for veterans.
VITAS operates inpatient units and three offices throughout the Miami-Dade and Monroe counties in Florida. The new facility marks further growth for the hospice provider’s presence in the southern United States.
“Miami has been the home of VITAS since its foundation over 40 years ago, and today I’m proud to announce this expansion of patient-centered, comfort-focused services and clinical support in the community that has embraced us from the start,” said Patty Husted, executive vice president of operations for VITAS. “We have deep roots in Miami as we currently serve more than 4,000 hospice patients in Miami-Dade and Broward and remain committed to making an impact by providing a suite of services that supports quality of life near the end of life.”
Location played a key role in the decision to open a unit in the area growing in need, Husted told Hospice News. Adults older than 65 accounted for more than 16% of the Miami-Dade county population in 2019, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration estimated that the aging populations in Miami-Dade county and nearby Monroe counties would swell through 2023 by an increase of 13.5% and 12/9%, respectively.
Florida ranked fourth in the nation for hospice utilization among Medicare decedents in 2018 at a rate of 57.9%, according to the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization. Utah held the highest rate at 60.5%.
According to Husted, VITAS was granted a certificate of need in 2019 for the area’s first freestanding inpatient unit, receiving support from Miami-Dade county’s mayor and officials from local religious and health care organizations, including South Florida Hospice and Palliative Nurse’s Association.
VITAS opened the facility in response to the need for inpatient care and for community members battling against barriers to accessible hospice and end-of-life care. Miami is one of Florida’s most heavily-populated areas with transportation issues among the leading barriers.
“Several factors played into the location decision, all of them based on providing and increasing access to high-quality inpatient hospice care,” Husted told Hospice News. “The first, to serve residents in heavily populated and rapidly growing Southern and Southwestern areas of the country. The location provides inpatient care that is ‘closer to home’ and more convenient for patients and their family members.”
Patients and families in the Miami region face long distances and congested traffic to access inpatient care, according to Husted. The facility is aimed at supporting/improving care transitions for patients in both facility- and community-based settings.
The new unit enabled VITAS to create 20 additional positions for staff to fully operate the facility.
The company has been growing its hospice footprint across the South, opening a de novo inpatient hospice in San Antonio previously this fall. As Husted shared with Hospice News, the new Florida inpatient unit is part of the company’s long-term strategy to expand in the Sunshine State, with plans to open additional inpatient hospice units in Broward County. VITAS also plans to build another freestanding facility in the Treasure Coast region of Florida.
“We decided to build our own freestanding unit, given that the cost of renting inpatient space in existing facilities is now more expensive in Miami-Dade County,” said Husted. “Reduced inpatient care costs allow VITAS to redirect funds to higher-quality patient and family services. Likewise, experience in other markets shows that the presence of an [inpatient unit] increases overall hospice utilization and improves the quality of care through more effective staff training/expertise and increased efficiencies.”