HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii News Now has learned that St. Francis Healthcare System of Hawaii will close its hospice in Ewa and its Oahu and Kauai home health care units and will lay off about 110 workers.
A spokesman for St. Francis said the company will close it 24-bed hospice unit next to the Queens West Medical Center on Sept. 30. St. Francis said its Nuuanu hospice will remain open.
"This is a difficult time for all of us at St. Francis. Having to scale back some of our services and lose great employees is not easy," said company CEO Jerry Correa.
"We have had to assess which programs and services best support our multi-year strategic plan and the decisions we are making today will help us to be more financially sustainable in the future, so that we can carry on the legacy of the Sisters of St. Francis."
The hospice is the Leeward Oahu's only in-patient center for terminal patients and its closure will forced families in need of hospice services to travel longer distances.
"This is definitely a setback in the community especially in a growing area such as ours in West Oahu," said state Sen. Will Espero, D-Ewa.
"However, it is my hope that another operator or entity will step in to fill the void."
That's what happened last year when Queen's Medical Center agreed to acquire the St. Francis West Medical Center next door. St. Francis initially closed the Ewa center before Queens agreed to buy the center.
A local hospice executive said that new rules governing Medicare have made it harder for patients to qualify for hospice services.
"This has time of perhaps the most amount of changes," said Kenneth Zeri, president of Hospice Hawaii.
"There's a greater burden on the part of hospices to make sure a patient is eligible, is medically eligible for hospice care, before we can even bring them onto service."
But Zeri believes other that other operators will be able to cover demand. He added that most patients and their families these days are opting for in-home hospice services.
St. Francis says the closure will make the organization more financially sustainable and won't affect plans to expand its Liliha campus.
Last year, the health care company said it was building a new 100-bed skilled nursing facility for seniors at its Liliha campus. That project is set to be completed later this summer.
Stay tuned to Hawaii News Now and HawaiiNewsNow.com for the latest developments on this breaking news.