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Hospice of North Idaho director talks about new CdA facility

Paul Weil, executive director of Hospice of North Idaho, talks at the organization’s office in Hayden on Thursday.  (Kathy Plonka)
Paul Weil, executive director of Hospice of North Idaho, talks at the organization’s office in Hayden on Thursday. (Kathy Plonka)

Hospice of North Idaho is scheduled to break ground this week on North Idaho’s first Hospice House. The project is expected to be complete by next spring. The house on Prairie Avenue in Coeur d’Alene will have rooms for 12 terminally ill patients whose loved ones can no longer manage their care at home. The house will offer gardens, a kitchen and living area for families and a round-the-clock staff of doctors, nurses, social workers and volunteers. In addition, a special “meditation room” will be named for the late Rev. Bill Wassmuth, one of Hospice’s founding board members.

Hospice raised $3.7 million for the project through community donations. Executive Director Paul Weil sat down for an interview with The Spokesman-Review.

Q. What need do you see this new house meeting in North Idaho?

A. When someone is in their end-of-life journey, we always want to keep their care patient- as well as family-focused. Regardless of whatever stage they’re at, we want to always make sure that family members are able to have full access to their loved one and to be there to support their loved one who is dying, as well as be supported. So we see this as not only a place to care for people who have unmanageable pain and symptom management, but also as a transition house. Someone may be in the hospital … and they declined to the point where now the prognosis is that they are dying. Instead of just bringing them immediately home, they can bring them to the Hospice House for a couple of days to help with the transition.

Q. So they most likely will die at home?

A. Yes. People think that everyone who comes to the Hospice House is going to die there, and that’s not the case. Really with a number of patients, that may be the case because they may never be able to go back home, but what we see is that it’s a place to handle the needs at the time. If you look at any surveys … 85 percent of the people say they’d like to die at home. That’s still the goal for most people.

Q. How many patients do you have on a daily basis?

A. Right now we have over 150.

Q. How has that grown in the past few years?

A. When I started in 2002, we had 40 patients. We’ve had significant growth every year.

Q. What do you think that’s indicative of?

A. It’s been consistent growth because of greater understanding. I think at a community level that’s occurring but also I think at a national level there’s more talk about death and dying. You see more articles in newspapers and magazines about hospice care.

Q. How well do you think this house will serve the need?

A. From our need analysis, we think that these 12 beds are going to serve the community well for at least the next 10 years. Hospice of Spokane had built a 12-bed house. The service area they have is significantly larger than ours. It’s three times larger, and they’ve been pretty much 80 to 100 percent occupied.

Q. Have you raised all the money you need?

A. We still have $500,000 to raise. The reason being is, there is reimbursement for hospice in-patient care, but it doesn’t really cover capital costs. So we’ll continue to raise money to pay off the bridge loan … to help cover this $500,000 gap we’ll have as we build the project.