After several months of layoffs, cutbacks and financial uncertainty, San Diego Hospice has filed for bankruptcy protection. Scripps Health has announced that it purchased a small hospice in Poway to help lessen the blow for patients. The health system has plans to expand its end-of-life care, said Scripps Health CEO Chris Van Gorder.
“Several months ago, San Diego Hospice made the suggestion that we move into the hospice world,” Van Gorder said. “The only reason we didn’t do it until now was because the community needs were already met.”
Scripps and San Diego Hospice have a longstanding relationship — the facility provides care for about 4,000 patients per year, and about 40 percent are Scripps Health patients, Van Gorder said. San Diego Hospice’s graduate education program is also licensed under Scripps Mercy.
San Diego Hospice faced scrutiny following a November audit that found that its admissions policies didn’t adhere to government guidelines — which could result in the hospice paying back millions of dollars to Medicare. It also owes about $9.8 million to creditors, including $4 million to Wells Fargo Credit Card, according to the bankruptcy filing.
San Diego Hospice has since laid off more than 250 employees and has closed its 24-bed inpatient facility in Hillcrest.
Scripps purchased the stock of Poway’s Horizon Hospice, which provides in-home services countywide. It will retain its staff and patient pool, and will expand its facilities, Van Gorder said. The hospice currently treats about 30 patients.
“We moved very quickly, no question about that, but did appropriate due diligence and we wanted to be in place with a license just in case San Diego Hospice continues having their challenges moving forward,” Van Gorder said.
Scripps Health is currently working with the California Department of Health to convert the Poway hospice into a tax-exempt organization, and make it a fully functioning part of Scripps.
He said that Scripps has long provided in-home palliative care, and this move is just a natural progression in consolidating care services.
“There are two absolutely undeniable facts — every human is born and will eventually die,” Van Gorder said. “What we’re trying to do is knit together a very fragmented system so that it’s easier for the patient to maneuver from inpatient to ambulatory to doctors’ offices to surgery centers to end-of-life care in the home.”