Families living in southeastern Connecticut deserve to have the option of moving a terminally ill loved one into a quality, local residential hospice program when end of life nears. Unfortunately, current rules prohibit the licensing of a residential hospice in the region. That needs to change.
Once again the legislature is discussing whether to do just that - amend regulations so that more hospice organizations can offer inpatient services. And again leading the campaign against such a change is an existing facility with self-interest to maintain the status quo.
For decades Connecticut Hospice in Branford has enjoyed near monopoly status for residential hospice care due to restrictive regulations. No one questions the quality of care Connecticut Hospice provides at its 52-bed facility. It is a national leader in providing care for the terminally ill and helping families cope.
But we are convinced that Hospice Southeastern Connecticut, which has a great reputation of its own for assisting families caring for a dying loved one in a home or institutional setting, would also provide a great residential experience for those in need if regulatory rules changed and it could open a facility.
In opposing expansion, Connecticut Hospice advocates note there are other facilities licensed for hospice care, including nursing homes and acute-care hospitals. But these institutions cannot provide the home-like experience found in a well-run residential hospice program. There is a smaller residential hospice program in Middletown, also a long drive for southeastern Connecticut families. A 12-bed facility in Stamford, once the only other residential program in the state, closed in December because it had to meet costly and unnecessarily burdensome nursing home regulations, the only option given the failure of the legislature to authorize rules for new residential programs.
In testimony before the legislature's Public Health Committee, Dr. Joseph Andrews, medical director at Connecticut Hospice, also warned of lower standards if regulations opened the field to greater competition, inviting more for-profit companies to enter the field.
Yet the Connecticut Department of Public Health is developing the proposed regulations with input from hospice programs across the state, about 90 percent of them non-profit and many interested in offering residential programs to serve their respective regions.
They should have that opportunity. Approve the legislation.