~ by Trevor Phipps ~
Prospect Hospice and Homecare has embarked on a new direction by opting to close their medical home care and hospice practices, but pursuing other ways to help the community.
The ending of the hospice service signals the end of a legacy that lasted for more than 30 years. The organization was started after a woman named Carolyn Pinion Rice had a dream and moved to the mountains in 1982. Rice wanted to establish an organization that provided health care and hospice services to those who lived in the rural mountain areas of the state, so she moved to Lake George from Denver.
Once Rice began her operations back in the 80s, she quickly realized several problems with being able to keep the non-profit going. The area did not have a big enough population to pay for the high costs of operating home care services in the mountain community. For 36 years, the organization was kept afloat by grants and donations from the community while operating from the same original framework Rice laid out when the organization was founded in the early 80s.
However, after functioning for over three decades, the non-profit leaders have been forced to deal with the same financial obstacles in continuing to operate that Rice encountered. According to Prospect’s current CEO Mary Barrowman, the organization’s closing of medical services came as a shock to everyone.
“The closure was abrupt and painful,” Barrowman said. “But, the success we have had for 36 years was remarkable.”
Barrowman said that each year the costs associated with providing medical services to private residences has increased drastically. “Our costs went up about $100 per patient due to increased regulations,” the chief executive officer said.
Natural disasters and turnover woes also played a role in the latest development for Prospect.
Last summer, many of Prospect’s employees suffered due to incidents like the High Chateau Fire.
Barrowman said that during the fire some of her employees were displaced. Then, after the fire, Hwy. 24 was closed a few times during mudslides making it difficult for some of Prospect’s staff to make the trip up the Pass. She said that many of her experienced nursing staffers have resigned, taking jobs in the Colorado Springs area.
“When our last nurse resigned, we could no longer provide 24/7 care,” Barrowman stated.
In order to provide the proper coverage, Prospect needs to have four to six registered nurses on staff, which they did not have, and they lacked a solid leader for the professional medical team.
Helping Seniors in Different Ways
However, even though Prospect had to discontinue its medical services, it is still planning on staying up and running. The organization went from having a staff of around 30 people to now having only a small team of three employees.
Prospect is now pursuing a slightly different direction, according to Barrowman.
Currently, the organization stays involved with the community and continues supporting local senior citizen organizations like the Golden Bridge Network. The office provides resources to locals who are interested in senior citizen-related programs and services.
Prospect also has increased the number of grief counseling sessions and services that they have always offered. They now offer a few more grief counseling support groups that during this time of year work towards helping lessen the pain of those who have lost someone close to them during the holidays. They are still sponsoring their annual Hope for the Holidays gathering at the Ute Pass Cultural Center, scheduled this year for Dec. 6.
The organization still operates out of the Woodland Medical Plaza located near the hospital, and now they have new landlords, as UC Health has reportedly bought the building. Prospect plans on staying at that same location at least for the next two years.
As for the future, Barrowman and the board have been researching different ways the organization can continue to help support the community.