OUR OPINION: Expansion affirms role of Sanctuary Hospice

By NEMS Daily Journal

Sanctuary Hospice House marked its sixth anniversary on Monday with a ceremonial groundbreaking for an eight-bed expansion – a 50 percent increase in the basic facility dedicated to providing patients dignity at the end of life.
Sanctuary was built with private donations and fundraising as a not-for-profit center for palliative care – provision of comfort and relief from pain when patients, physicians and families agree that continued therapeutic treatment is not effective.
Sanctuary, within the limits of its staff and physical capacity, accepts all referrals regardless of the ability to pay. It accepts reimbursement from various kinds of insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, but no one in a patient’s family gets a bill for services rendered.
Since November 2005, Sanctuary – which is an ecumenical ministry – has provided end-of-life care for more than 1,600 people at its pastoral, 16-acre campus on West Main Street in Tupelo, and for more than 280 patients through its relatively newer home hospice program.
Executive Director Linda Gholston said that Sanctuary served 260 patients and their families in 2010, but 354 patients could not be accepted because no bed was available.
The eight-bed addition will cost $1.2 million, with $1 million in hand. The original structure cost about $1.6 million.
Donations, insurance reimbursements and thrift shop sale income provide operating revenue, which supports a certified medical and nursing staff.
Sanctuary Hospice’s most striking distinction may be its huge cadre of volunteer supporters who stage its annual Celebration Village seasonal gift fundraiser, staff its thrift store and work on-site in supportive roles.
The addition includes renovations to the kitchen, which is professionally staffed, to have the capacity to feed the patients and all the family members who are on hand at meal times.
Gholston said home hospice care will continue to grow, based on the demand so far for palliative care in the residences of terminally ill patients. She said Sanctuary’s staff and board of directors are in the process of addressing that increasing need.
About 95 percent of Sanctuary’s patients are from Northeast Mississippi, with a few from western Alabama and extreme southern Tennessee.
Gholston said home hospice care meets a need in situations sometimes involving a spouse or other primary caregiver who find driving to Tupelo difficult or impossible.
Sanctuary Hospice was an unconventional approach when its founders proposed the idea, but the favorable response was passionate and lasting.
The survivors of those served overwhelmingly praise the care and support provided, especially the spirit of compassion guiding its work.