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Local

Joliet hospice plans to add beds, expand facility

State Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, and Mary Sheehan, chief executive officer at Joliet Area Community Hospice, discuss a state law that will allow the facility to be expanded.
State Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, and Mary Sheehan, chief executive officer at Joliet Area Community Hospice, discuss a state law that will allow the facility to be expanded.

Joliet Area Community Hospice plans to expand its in-patient facility now that a new state law will allow more beds.

The expansion plans were announced Friday at a news conference called to discuss the impact of legislation that expands the number of beds allowed at in-patient hospice facilities from 16 to 20.

“There were days when we had a waiting list – 16 beds full and patients waiting at home or at hospitals or at nursing homes for their end-of-life care,” said Mary K. Sheehan, chief executive officer for Joliet Area Community Hospice.

Sheehan said she suggested to state Rep. Natalie Manley, D-Joliet, in April that the state expand allowable bed capacity for hospice facilities.

Manley initiated the legislation. It moved quickly through the state House and Senate, where it was sponsored by state Sen. Jennifer Bertino-Tarrant, D-Shorewood, and was signed into law by Gov. Bruce Rauner on Aug. 10.

Manley joined Sheehan at the news conference at the Joliet hospice.

“My mother spent the last few days of her life here, being cared for in a way that I want every person to have the opportunity to have their mother cared for,” Manley said.

Manley and Sheehan said they were not sure why the state limits the number of beds at hospice in-patient facilities, although Manley said competition may be a factor.

Joliet Area Community Hospice built the first facility in the state that took in patients for end-of-life care when it opened in 2003. Now, there are 12 such facilities in Illinois, said Sheehan, who also is board chairwoman at the Illinois Hospice and Palliative Care Association.

The Joliet hospice plans to raise $3.5 million for expansion to add the four beds allowed by the change in state law and prepare the facility for future limits on the number of beds allowed, Sheehan said.

“We’re going to add eight spaces so we’re prepared for the future,” she said.

The hospice facility also plans to add two family rooms, including showers and a kitchen, that can be used by visitors spending time with patients. Sheehan said the plan is to start construction in the spring and open in late 2019.

Joliet Area Community Hospice provides home hospice in an eight-county area. Sheehan said the average census of patients has increased from 120 to 300 since she became chief executive three years ago.

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