Inpatient hospice unit opens in Shelby Baptist

All eight patient rooms in the new Vitas Healthcare inpatient hospice unit in Shelby Baptist Medical Center are private, and will be open around-the-clock for visitors. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

All eight patient rooms in the new Vitas Healthcare inpatient hospice unit in Shelby Baptist Medical Center are private, and will be open around-the-clock for visitors. (Reporter Photo/Neal Wagner)

By NEAL WAGNER / Managing Editor

ALABASTER – A few hours before the grand opening ceremony for the new Vitas Healthcare inpatient hospice unit in Alabaster’s Shelby Baptist Medical Center, company Vice President of Operations Jennifer NyGaard said it was hard to believe the day was finally there.

“This is the culmination of about a year of work,” NyGaard said as she stood in the wood-floored hallways of the new unit on the third floor of the main SBMC building. “The hospital has been outstanding to work with throughout this whole process.”

A little more than a year ago, Vitas representatives were visiting with SBMC when they proposed the idea of opening a unit in the hospital. NyGaard said many hospitals they approach are cramped for space, but said the company spoke with SBMC at an opportune time.

“They said ‘Actually, we do have some space available,” NyGaard said. “So after going through some state requirements with the Certificate of Need, during which we were uncontested, here we are today.”

NyGaard said the eight-bed, 5,200-square-foot unit is the first hospital-based inpatient hospice center in the state, and said the company is looking to meet an unmet need in central Alabama.

The Alabaster unit will employ about 16 people, and will begin accepting patients in late July, NyGaard said.

The eight patient rooms surround a central information desk, and the unit will be open for visitors around the clock.

Each patient room is private, and includes a bed, a bathroom, a sink, a television and a recliner-bed to accommodate overnight visitors. Vitas will offer food from the hospital, and can bring in any food a patient requests, NyGaard said.

In addition to the patient rooms, the unit includes a family room containing a work area and television, a private quiet room designed for family members to receive updates on their loved ones and a small meal room for visitors.

Vitas therapy dogs will regularly visit patients, and the unit will offer a social worker, a chaplain, a certified masseuse and a music therapy specialist, NyGaard said.

“The impatient setting allows us to provide for higher-acuity patients, such as patients who need oxygen or a ventilator,” NyGaard said. “We are all about meeting the individualized needs of our patients.”