12/26/10 — Kitty Askins delays grand opening

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Kitty Askins delays grand opening

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on December 26, 2010 1:50 AM

For months, January 1 has been the target date for completion of the expansion of Kitty Askins Hospice Center.

A few glitches, including pending state inspections, have altered that plan, said Dean Lee, president and chief executive officer for Home Health and Hospice Care, which owns Kitty Askins.

"Jan. 1 is not the date now," he said late last week. "Right now it looks like the end of the month (January) we can move in.

"There's some finishing details to be completed -- flooring coverings to be put down, we're testing a nurse call system and just those typical end-of-building- project finished details."

A pre-inspection has already been done by the Department of Health Service Regulations, with a short list of items that need to be addressed. Lee said those had since been completed.

"They'll come in, it looks like, the week of the 17th to give us our final punch list," he said.

All told, it will still take time to roll out the effort in its entirety, Lee said, starting with shifting patients from the existing hospice wing. Patients, he explained, will be moved to the new SECU House, funded by the State Employees Credit Union, during the renovations.

"The remodel's probably going to take a couple months," he said. "We're waiting on a final time line on that piece."

The expansion will add 13,000 square feet to the facility and double its occupancy to 24 beds. Built in 1995, it has long been at capacity, with an ongoing waiting list for residents.

"The whole project was created to eliminate the waiting list," Lee said. "We can see that coming to be. Not only that but we would be able to provide respite care for patients, short stays for caregiver relief and have beds available so that we never have to say, 'Sorry, we're full.'"

As with any renovation project, once the efforts got underway, other needs surfaced.

"The reason to do the complete remodel of Kitty originally, we only had to remodel six units in the acute wing," Lee explained. "We wanted everything to be uniform and complete. The board approved earlier this month to do a complete remodel of the existing Kitty."

That involves new floor coverings, energy efficient windows throughout the facility, new countertops and furnishings.

"Quite honestly, we want to make sure we have a uniform facility, that there's no old building and new building stigma attached," he said. "We're really excited about it, it's starting to come together nicely."

At this point, target date for a dedication and ribbon cutting ceremony to officially announce the expanded facility's completion is likely to be early March, Lee said.

Another advantage associated with the project is that it will create new jobs, which was actually among the stipulations for funding when the process started, he added.

"We'll have about 20 new jobs with the additional 12 beds," he said.

Meanwhile, the capital campaign is still hovering below the target goal of $4 million.

"We're right at $3.2 million," Lee said. "We're continuing with that effort."

Support so far has exceeded any expectations, he said.

"We had a wonderful response from Mount Olive (with $100,000) and we're still getting monies," he said.

There are several other ways the public can contribute to the cause, Lee pointed out. Fund-A-Foot, allowing for the purchase, for $194, a square foot of the new facility, is one way. Another is through naming opportunities, by donating certain dollar amounts.

"For example, $750,000 was given by SECU with naming rights," he explained. "Existing wing naming rights are still available for $500,000, name a room, $50,000, and for $10,000, furnishing a room.

"There are many others, if people want to give and help us finish. I would love to make the announcement when we have the ribbon-cutting dedication that we have this building paid off."

Despite the outstanding amount remaining for the capital campaign, Lee credits the local community with rallying for the cause.

"Look what's happened," he said. "We kicked this campaign off right as the economy was going south. We have managed to raise $3.2 million today because of people believing in us, and that's the good Lord's will. We have great people in this community and this speaks highly of our entire community."