Hospice of the Gold Isles’ Di Landro: Staffing is Industry’s Top Challenge

Hospice of the Golden Isles has appointed Paula Di Landro as its new executive director. Di Landro came to Golden Isles from Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care of Tampa where she also served as executive director, overseeing 140 interdisciplinary team members and directing the company’s operations.

Di Landro’s prior experience includes years of work as a crisis counselor for at-risk youth, as well as a case manager supporting patients in skilled nursing and senior housing facilities. She entered the hospice space in 2002 as director of family services programs for Suncoast Hospice, now a subsidiary of Empath Health.

Hospice of the Golden Isles is a nonprofit organization that’s been serving a five-county area in Georgia for approximately 40 years, including some rural areas and nearby islands, as well as the city of Savannah.

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Hospice News sat down with Di Landro to discuss her plans for leading Gold Isles and how the organization will roll with the changing tides influencing the industry.

Alivia Care
Hospice of the Golden Isles Executive Director Paula Di Landro. Photo courtesy of Alivia Care

As you step into the executive director role, what are your top priorities?

A key priority for Golden Isles is to differentiate ourselves from our competitors as being the hometown hospice. We are the hospice that folks are accustomed to. There’s six others in the region, including three really new ones. We are really showing the community that we provide all four levels of care and how we do that.

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Second, business development and marketing is a priority — making sure that we have this ability and that we have representatives that can go out and make connections and help people understand that we are their hometown hospice.

Can you add some color on some of the differentiators for Golden Isles compared to its competitors?

We have a residential hospice house. We’re the only hospice in the area with that kind of facility. Our bigger competitors use nursing home facilities for respite and residential care. We do have and staff our own residential center where we take [general inpatient], residential, and routine home care patients that need medication adjustments or end-of-life care.

There are also the relationships we’ve developed within the community through the years. We’ve supported the communities through caregivers and events, and built up long-standing relationships.

In addition to your work in the hospice industry you have a background in mental health counseling and case management. How does your experience in those fields influence your approach to leading a hospice organization?

One of the strong partnerships that a hospice can develop is with your hospital system in your area. They have a lot of pressure in the changes with health care in terms of their financial burdens, for readmissions and for length of stay at the hospital.

They tend to look at hospice as another level of care for them outside the walls of the hospital. If a hospice does it well, which Golden Isles has a reputation for doing, you can help keep those patients in their homes who are often readmitted within 30 days. We provide excellent care and can help prevent some of those financial penalties.

My prior experience helps me explain to them the benefits of hospice and how we can really partner well with them, fill the gaps and support some of their own initiatives.

What do you see as the most significant challenge that hospice providers are currently facing? And how do you plan to address those issues at Hospice of the Golden isles?

It’s the staffing shortage. With COVID and some of the changes and fears in the health care system, people are kind of moving away. We’re experiencing the same thing. I think the way through for this organization is to really help current and prospective staff see the culture here, which is one of support and inclusion. They’ve done a really nice job with that here at the Golden Isles. We have great quality scores. We’ve received a lot of really positive feedback from the community.

When people are looking for a job, they want to know that they’re coming to the right place, and that they’re doing well by the community. Our reputation will help us. We also have a lot of longevity with our current staff, and they bring in some good quality folks.

What are some ways you see the hospice field changing? How is your organization navigating those changes?

For our organization, we are seeing growing competition. In the past, there weren’t as many hospices and certainly not as many in one area. I think that is a challenge for hospices: How do you diversify? How do you stand out? What makes you the best choice for patients and families? 

We really have to focus an equal amount of energy on the branding, and we have to drive people to platforms where they can do their homework and make informed decisions about their care. People are very savvy with computers, and they are looking at quality scores.

Going forward, you’re going to have to focus on quality scores. You have to tell people upfront what they can expect and make sure you deliver in order to be successful.

Hospice of the Golden Isles recently joined forces with Alivia care as part of its provider network. Can you talk about how that relationship is proceeding and how it affects your business?

The affiliation with Alivia Care was not one of necessity, it was more strategic in that joining the group was going to help diversify some of the management systems to reduce the financial burden. It really has helped us reduce those administrative costs so that we can function better and streamline a lot of those processes. We’re still in the midst of aligning some of them, but we are already sharing software, management services and payroll. Sometimes being a smaller hospice entity, you don’t get those benefits. It has been very positive for us.

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