Hospice of Charles County announced Tuesday the signing of a letter of intent for acquisition by Hospice of the Chesapeake, according to a press release from Hospice of the Chesapeake.
The acquisition is set to be finalized after a 30 to 60 day conditional discovery period and is set to bring together two nonprofit organizations to strengthen access to end-of-life care in Charles County.
“I am excited to share this news with our community and to take the next steps towards finalization with the Hospice of the Chesapeake leadership team,” said Chris Becker, Hospice of Charles County board of directors chairman. “We believe Hospice of the Chesapeake shares our values of community, quality and service, as evidenced by their long-standing support to the communities they serve.”
Founded in 1979, Hospice of the Chesapeake currently serves Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties, and provided care for over 3,300 hospice patients, over 1,150 palliative/supportive care patients and served over 444 clients in grief support services in 2019. Hospice of the Chesapeake is currently caring for over 550 hospice patients and their families.
Ben Marcantonio, president and CEO of Hospice of the Chesapeake, said the process took due diligence and careful thought from the board to secure future care for county residents and their families. He said hospice is taking a look at what kind of partnerships are needed with other end-of-life care providers to make sure care is administered at the right time and setting.
“We, for many years, have had a relationship with Hospice of Charles County, and their board’s discussions of strength and future of organization was consistent with what we were looking at,” Marcantonio said. “It was a nice natural coming together. This looks like a good alignment for both organizations.”
Marcantonio said the mission of hospice is to provide care for patients and their families wherever needed. He said when families are not able to visit, hospice wants to bring the care to their homes and make sure patients and families experience a welcoming environment.
Del. Edith Patterson (D-Charles), vice-chair of the Hospice of Charles County board of directors, said that she has worked closely with the organization since its creation to make sure the facility remained viable and stable. She said the goal is to meet the needs of citizens, patients and family in the county.
“We have seen challenges as it relates to patients’ availability of services; the board was very careful in ways we could continue to meet needs of citizens,” Patterson said. “We are optimistic of the future, when you look at where we are, we are moving in the right direction with the merger.”
Patterson said another critically important issue for the expansion of hospice was to get insight from stakeholders. She said hospice currently has a lot of commitment from local organizations, but within the past few years has branched out to the metropolitan area and created a robust capital campaign.
“We are gaining greater ability and viability, showing that there is a role of care through marketing and branding,” Patterson said. “I believe with the combined efforts and staffing, but also looking at expansion of resources, marketing, branding, expertise, everything we do, the mission should be the same: provide outstanding care for citizens.”
Patterson explained that hospice is not just a resource for those leaving or dying and their families. She said she is passionate about hospice because her husband stayed in a facility 20 years ago in Rockville, when that was the closest accessible location. She was able to move in with him and stay at the facility.
“True, people were terminal and dying, but it was a place of support, whether it was a visitor or pastor coming in, for them to be there to comfort you, there is no comparison,” Patterson said. “I don’t go there as a place that people have died, but as a place of comfort. For those who have used it, we have a different perspective about it.”
Both Marcantonio and Patterson said that hospice is not a place of abandonment, but a place of care, comfort and peace. Marcantonio said that with restrictions put in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, hospice has responded by increasing protective equipment for staff and facilitating window visits and telehealth conferencing for the families of patients.
“We are really conscious of visits and how they will take place,” Marcantonio said. “If a family member is not allowed in, video conferencing is right there, we are just trying to make it as real as we possibly can.”
Sandra Dillon, director of communications for Hospice of the Chesapeake, highlighted the importance of the joining of two nonprofit organizations. She said the connection was something that both hospice boards were looking for.
“While we are a larger organization, we are dependent and connected with donors and volunteers and we want to continue that relationship,” Dillon said. “We are proud we can join another nonprofit, everything we do is returning resources and investment for all three counties.”
When it comes to the future of hospice, Patterson said she wants to continue the outreach and expand to the veterans’ community. She said hospice is culture inclusive and bilingual, and she believes more members of the community should have access to this resource.
“I am really excited about what we are doing and continuing to do — both boards understood we needed to have this merger,” Patterson said. “I think this will be the continuation of hospice in Charles County, this is an opportunity we certainly should and will take advantage of.”
Marcantonio said the future is promising for hospice, as the organization finds better ways to close the variance between those who need care and those who are getting it.
“We are making good strides that way and doing that together with the citizens of Charles County,” Marcantonio said. “We will use the best of what we have learned to provide and expand that access of care.”