Community Hospice opens at Baptist Medical Center

The 7,500-square-foot unit on the fifth floor has 10 patient rooms.

by: Katie Garwood Staff Writer, Jacksonville Daily Record

For a patient moving into hospice care, comfort and convenience are crucial. 

That’s why Community Hospice and Palliative Care will open its ninth inpatient unit, the Alice and T. O’Neal Douglas Center for Caring, on the fifth floor of Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville. It began accepting patients Monday. 

The 10-room, 7,500-square-foot facility will serve patients with advanced illness and nearing the ends of their lives.

“One of the things that we’ve wanted to do is really be that continuum of care for Baptist Jacksonville,” said Susan Ponder-Stansel, president and CEO of Community Hospice and Palliative Care. 

Local art is in the hallways and commissioned for each room.

The unit went into space on the fifth floor of the Downtown hospital that had been vacant for about nine years. Before that, the space served as an orthopedic unit. 

Michael Mayo, president of Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville, said plans are to add another inpatient hospice unit at Baptist Medical Center South in the coming year. 

Community Hospice also operates hospice facilities at Mayo Clinic, UF Health Jacksonville, Baptist Medical Center Nassau, Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside and Southside campuses, Flagler Hospital and three free-standing facilities in the Westside, Mandarin and Fleming Island. 

In addition to the 10 patient rooms, there is a family meeting space with couches, a television and a kitchenette for time away from the patient’s room, but still close by.

The facility features 10 rooms.

Ponder-Stansel said the benefit of having a hospice unit within a hospital allows patients to make an easier transition into hospice care. Before the Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville unit was built, Ponder-Stansel said the closest hospice unit was at Ascension St. Vincent’s Riverside. 

“There’s a whole community and neighborhood that uses this hospital and they had to make that choice to go fairly far away,” Ponder-Stansel said. “So it also brings that service into the San Marco area. I’m sure a lot of folks who use this facility will prefer to stay here.”

Mayo said adding the hospice facility within the building also would help the hospital operationally. Before adding the unit, patients could be admitted in a hospice status, meaning they would be discharged on paper, but readmitted into the hospital as a hospice patient. They would then stay in the same bed. 

Now, hospital patients wanting to move into hospice care just need to move to a different floor within the hospital. 

Wood floors are used to make the hospice feel more homelike.

“That makes that decision a whole lot easier and it just facilitates good care for everybody and it connects the continuum much easier,” Mayo said. “So that’s why I wanted to do this project because it was very important to create that connectivity. Everybody wins, especially the patient and family.”

Despite the unit being part of the hospital, Ponder-Stansel said it intentionally will look and feel different from the rest of the building. 

Wood floors make it feel more homelike. Local art is in the hallways and commissioned for each room.

The rooms are larger than typical hospital rooms to encourage family members to stay with the patient. There’s a minifridge and pullout couch in each room, as well as full-size bathrooms. 

A hallway at the facility.

“It’s not an acute care part of the hospital,” Ponder-Stansel said. “It’s just this little oasis for people who are at the end of their lives and their families.”

Ponder-Stansel said 75 people would be hired to staff the unit, including nurses, aides, chaplains and social workers. 

O’Neal Douglas was the chairman and CEO of American Heritage Life Insurance Co. and American Heritage Life Investment Corp., a holding company for American Heritage Life Insurance Co. and Columbia Life Insurance Co. He is a former Baptist Medical Center Jacksonville board member, serving eight years as chairman. 

Alice Douglas volunteered with the Wolfson Children’s Hospital Auxiliary and served on The Guild of the Jacksonville Symphony Association board.

The Douglases cut the ribbon to open the unit.

One of the family meeting areas in the new facility.