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Providence gains palliative care grant

Thanks to an added two-year, $170,000 grant from the Cambia Foundation, Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital can now care for more patients through the development of a comprehensive palliative care program serving people with serious illnesses.

According to Christina VanderWerf, marketing director for PHRMH, the hospital is committed to palliative care and addressing the needs of patients in the Columbia Gorge.

The expanding program is focused on providing patients with relief from the symptoms, pain, and stress of a serious illness – whatever the diagnosis.

“The twin goals of medicine are the cure of disease and the relief of suffering,” said Robin Henson, M.D., medical director for Providence Medical Group-Hood River. “We’re very practiced at the cure of disease, but sometimes addressing the suffering was not as high a priority.”

The Hood River program will be staffed with a nurse practitioner, chaplains, social workers, community health workers, and other disciplines such as pharmacists and dietitians, as needed. Patients can meet with providers in a Providence clinic, their home or care facility, or in the hospital.

According to Henson, Nina Van Es, a nurse practitioner, was hired to provide patient care and lead program development.

“We have the benefit of experts both locally and through well-developed palliative care programs in our sister ministries in Portland, Spokane, Walla Walla and Medford. We’ll be learning from all of those and adapting to the unique needs of patients here in the Columbia Gorge,” said Henson.

Program costs are funded by Providence Hood River Memorial Hospital and supported by two grants: one from PacificSource supporting program development and one from Cambia Foundation supporting Hispanic outreach.

“We know that palliative care represents some of our best care, and we are eager to bring it more directly to our Hispanic patients,” said Mark Thomas, director of mission integration at PHRMH. The Cambia grant will fund Community Health Workers who will perform outreach and education activities and have a clinical presence for Hispanic patients.

Local primary care providers have expressed their enthusiasm for the program as well.

“In my conversations with patients and colleagues, I hear about the great care people receive through hospice and home care programs in our community,” said Kristen Dillon, M.D., family medicine physician, Columbia Gorge Family Medicine. “But there’s also a lot of frustration that many people cannot be served by these programs due to external enrollment regulations and funding.

“I’m excited to see us working together to create a program that bridges this gap. I appreciate the role of Providence Health & Services, PacificSource, and Cambia in funding this visionary project.”

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