Effective May 1, the North Carolina-based hospital UNC Health Southeastern (UNC) will transfer ownership of its community-based hospice operations to Lower Cape Fear LifeCare.
The financial terms of the transfer include a sale of tangible assets for an undisclosed dollar amount, with no premium attached to the transaction. Lower Cape Fear LifeCare will also assist UNC by providing palliative care consultations within the hospital.
As for reasons behind the sale, the hospital cited efforts to more closely align its scope of services to its overarching mission as an acute care hospital and to improve efficiency. The hospital will continue to offer inpatient hospice services.
“UNC Health Southeastern is organized primarily as a general, acute care hospital. We recognize our expertise and seek partners when necessary to bring the proper amount of access and level of care to our region,” a UNC spokesperson told Hospice News. “We recognized a deficit in the manner in which outpatient hospice/palliative care services were being delivered to the region.”
The transfer of its home-based hospice services will also free up more resources for UNC’s palliative care program, UNC Health Southeastern President and CEO Chris Ellington indicated in a statement.
The hospital is located in Robeson County, North Carolina, which as of 2019 had a total population of roughly 116,000 people. Seniors older than 65 are the fastest-growing age group in the county, having seen a 22% increase between 2010 and 2021, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
In 2019, the most recent year for which county-specific data are available, 823 Robeson residents were admitted to a hospice. About 585 died while receiving hospice care that year.
Statewide, more than 57,000 patients elected hospice in 2021, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) reported.
“A review of available data suggested a lower than average number of citizens in our region utilizing our outpatient hospice service,” the UNC spokesperson said. “Given the importance and need of this service, we sought the partnership with Cape Fear LifeCare. We partnered with Cape Fear LifeCare as their expertise in providing care and educating our community on the value of hospice services is proven at their other locations.”
Lower Cape Fear LifeCare is a nonprofit agency that has been serving southeastern North Carolina for more than 40 years, including Robeson, Bladen and Columbus counties.
The organization cared for 328 patients in 2019, according to the North Carolina Department of Health & Human Services. Of those, only four resided in Robeson County, compared to 253 for Columbus and 71 for Bladen.
“We are excited about the opportunity to partner with UNC Health Southeastern to provide in-home hospice care to patients and their families in Robeson County,” Lower Cape Fear LifeCare COO Timothy King said in a statement. “This expansion is a logical progression of our nonprofit’s mission to ensure that residents in our region living with a life-limiting illness have access to comprehensive, compassionate, high-quality care and support. We are ecstatic to add Robeson County to our service area.”