PeaceHealth gets pushback for palliative care cuts

Vancouver, Wash.-based PeaceHealth is ending comprehensive outpatient palliative care May 26 and reducing staff to one nurse and one social worker for in-home care, Cascadia Daily reported May 16.

Criticism of the decision has been intense, with some patients saying the closure goes against the hospital's mission. Other critics say PeaceHealth broke its promise to donors who gave more than $2 million to launch the program years ago.

Bryan Stewart, system vice president for the home and community division, said in a May 16 statement that the program wasn't financially feasible. He confirmed PeaceHealth had made a promise, but with a caveat.

"The Foundation was clear with donors at the onset that PeaceHealth's commitment was to support the palliative care program beyond the five-year Foundation investment, understanding that as the program evolved over time, operational changes might be necessary," Mr. Stewart said. "Unfortunately, the stress caused by the pandemic on our healthcare system, coupled with under-reimbursement, high program expenses and relatively low number of patients served, led to the recently announced changes."

Retired PeaceHealth physician Meg Jacobson, MD, acknowledged that palliative care places a financial burden on healthcare systems because of the few patients they see. Hospitals also can't bill for the services of social workers or chaplains, she added.

PeaceHealth also decided to close its allergy clinic and overnight sleep lab, the report said.

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