It could be ready by May, according to Freeholder Gerald M. Thornton, liaison to the home and to social services.
Only some minor construction will be necessary to give the hospice its own entrance, he said, and bid specs were to have been ready for last night’s freeholder meeting.
The in-patient, palliative/end of life unit will have more private rooms than semi-private, he said, and include an enclosed courtyard and lounge for family members.
In the meantime, Thornton told the county Human Services Advisory Council Jan. 4, the nursing home is filled, with a “significant” waiting list of 37. “The demand is extremely high,” he said.
He told the Herald he is “in discussions” with county Administrator Stephen O’Connor and nursing home Administrator Margaret Gannon about adding another 60 beds to the 180-bed nursing home.
“That would take a few years to get done,” he said.
The county earlier set aside eight beds for a rehabilitation program and that, coupled with the 10 beds for hospice, would leave 162. Thornton said all the rehab beds are being used and he is certain the hospice, the only in-house facility in the county, also will be fully utilized.
The hospice also could provide short-term, temporary residency so that family members could get relief from their care giving.
“We are trying to meet the needs of the county,” said Thornton.
A quarter of the county’s population is over the age of 60.
Medicare, Medicaid or private insurance normally pays for the services.
The problem, even with a 180-bed home, said Thornton is staffing.
“There is a shortage of CNAs (certified nursing assistants), LPNs, RNs, and physical therapists,” he said. “It is a national crisis.”
Elizabeth Bozzelli, director of the Department of Aging, noted, and others at the HSAC meeting agreed, that one problem for CNAs is “getting to work.”
To help staff the county’s expanded home health nursing services, Thornton said, the county is offering a grant-funded program by which CNAs can take additional training and also be certified as home health aides.
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