Keep Hospice of the Northwest locally owned | Editorial

As the San Juans actively seek solutions to long-term care for seniors to age in place, on the mainland another storm is brewing — a prospective change of ownership over the hospice organization that operates in the islands.

The timing of this potential sale being leaked to the public is interesting as November is National Home Care and Hospice Month.

“Home care and hospice nurses, therapists, aides and other providers who choose to use their lives to serve our country’s aged, disabled, and dying. This noble work deserves our recognition and praise and we celebrate November as Home Care and Hospice Month for that very reason,” said National Association for Home Care and Hospice President William A. Dombi.

While 80 percent of Americans would prefer to die at home, only 20 percent actually do. Sixty percent of people breathe their last breath in acute care hospitals according to Stanford School of Medicine.

In a typical year, less than 25 percent of the American population puts into writing how they’d like to be cared for at the end of their life, according to Stanford, another 19 percent haven’t even thought about it.

For more than 30 years, Hospice of the Northwest located in the Skagit Valley has provided hospice services to the San Juan Islands. Now, with the news leaking that a for-profit company named Bristol Hospice, a portfolio company owned by investment firm Webster Equity Partners from Massachusetts, offering to buy HNW, metaphorical alarms have begun to ring all around the region.

Numerous health care providers, both current and former, have said that this sale would have disastrous consequences on the islands. As it stands, there are two HNW nurses for the San Juans, who are able to visit 25 patients regularly. San Juan County Public Hospital District No. 1 Commissioner Trish Lehman noted that should the sale go through, the island would likely see a drastic reduction in coverage, with nurses checking in on patients bi-weekly — the bare minimum covered by Medicare.

Lehman said that HNW is financially solvent for the two public hospital districts that own it — Skagit Regional Health Care District 1 and United General District 304. With that in mind, it’s hard to understand why they’d be willing to part with it. But it’s not hard to figure out why the private equity firm would be interested in purchasing it.

According to its website, Bristol Hospice currently has 33 hospice locations across the country and it recently purchased Remita Health expanding its coverage in Arizona, California and Nevada in August.

We are concerned that if a for-profit company — beholden to investors — takes over management of the region’s beloved hospice provider, the service will drop substantially and our island hospice patients would suffer for the sake of a bottom line.

If you oppose the sale of Hospice of the Northwest, you can sign the petition at