10/13/11 — 3HC marks anniversary of providing patient care

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3HC marks anniversary of providing patient care

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on October 13, 2011 1:46 PM

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Dean Lee, right, president and CEO of Home Health and Hospice Care Inc., 3HC, discusses the growth of the company while giving a tour of the Kitty Askins Hospice Center with Mary Bartlett, left, chief financial officer, and Jo Johnson, board of directors member. 3HC celebrated its 30th anniversary Wednesday.

Jo Johnson joined the board of directors in the early stages of 3HC, or Home Health and Hospice, before its most well-known entity -- Kitty Askins Hospice Center -- was launched.

"We didn't have Kitty Askins and didn't have hardly any office, which was very small," she said. "I have enjoyed watching it grow.

"The Goldsboro area is very blessed that we were able to keep it here, build here. I think it's a big blessing to the community."

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the corporation, commemorated Wednesday in Goldsboro. It was the fourth stop on the celebration trail, said Dean Lee, president and CEO, as he addressed staff and volunteers. The corporation has nearly 400 employees throughout its locations, which also include Smithfield, Wilson, Greenville, Maysville, Clinton, Kinston and waystations in Fayetteville and Garner.

But it is Kitty Askins that put the hospice care effort on the map, drawing attention from other hospitals around the state "that came here first" to get an idea of how to emulate the prototype, Lee said.

"Even though Kitty was only built in 1995, it has become the flagship (of 3HC)," he said. "Everybody knows Kitty."

Testimonials abound for the care received by families whose loved ones have been recipients at the hospice center for days, months or even longer in some cases.

Mary Bartlett, chief financial officer for the company, shared that recently a Raleigh physician, upon touring the facility, made the decision to have one of his family members stay at Kitty Askins, even though there was a location closer to their Wake County home.

Its reputation has deepened through the years as a compassionate place where family members can receive not only acute care but in surroundings that are like home. One of the main challenges, though, has been space -- the 12-bed facility became known for its perpetual waiting list.

The expansion effort took years, starting in late 2005, early 2006. But only because it took that long to obtain all the necessary paperwork from the state, funding to pay for the projects, and then a year and half of construction time.

But earlier this year, it all came to fruition as the center doubled in its occupancy size, to 24 beds.

"The residential side has been basically full since Day One," Lee said. "We have days when it's been full on the acute side."

Despite the additional room, there is still a waiting list, albeit not as pronounced, he added.

"We have had it as low as seven (waiting)," he said. "It's been 11 or 12."

The additions are likewise impressive -- spacious rooms, private patios for each one, a chapel area provided through a fundraiser from nearly four dozen Mount Olive area churches, a dining room and commercial grade kitchen.

"It's allowed us to really expand all the services that are available to the hospice benefit," Lee said.

To walk the halls of the center, except for the expanded nursing station, there is little evidence of its being a medical facility -- no tell-tale smells or sights, Lee said. Even, or especially, in the patient's rooms where, except for the hospital bed, there is a television, a small dresser, even a chair that turns into a recliner for visitors to stay comfortably. They "don't have to be looking at hospital equipment," he said, as he rolled away a piece of artwork on the wall to reveal a compartment containing hook-ups for oxygen and other medical support.

The expansion project also included sprucing up the existing portion of the building, Mrs. Johnson said, so there would be no issues with incoming patients vying for the "new rooms" versus the old.

Beyond the bricks and mortar, paint and furnishings, though, what has made the most difference to the success and longevity of the hospice effort in Wayne County, officials said, are the people.

"Thirty years with this agency and it wouldn't exist without you," Lee told a gathering of staff and volunteers, all decked out in lime green shirts to commemorate the anniversary celebration. He praised their teamwork, which contributed to providing the "absolute best care for our patients."

A large portion of credit should also be doled out to area residents, said Mrs. Johnson, a past chair of the board of the directors.

"It took awhile to realize that this belonged to the community," she said. "And we needed their support."

"This is really a community success," Lee added. "We had a lot of support. If it wasn't for this community, this wouldn't exist."