Program for terminal patients is changing

A program that provides medical assistance and comfort for the terminally ill in Enumclaw will soon see dramatic change.

There’s apparently room for debate as to the value of the new policy and procedures.

At issue is the palliative care outreach program provided by the Franciscan Medical Group. The program consists of two employees at the Franciscan-owned Enumclaw Medical Center who typically deal with patients who have been advised by physicians they have a year or less to live.

Patients are taken to the medical center where trained nurses offer counseling, connect patients with critical resources and help with other end-of-life issues.

When it was first launched a dozen years ago, the program was called “Improving Care Through the End of Life.”

Gale Robinette, a Franciscan spokesman, said palliative care is seen as a “bridge program” for those who may be nearing the end but do not yet qualify for hospice care. The goal, he said, “is to provide support for patients who have been told they may have a year or so to live.”

The program has been offered at 11 Franciscan Medical Group clinics throughout King and Pierce counties, available to patients whose doctors practice at those clinics.

And, the palliative care program has been offered at no charge.

Franciscan’s goal, Robinette said, has been to make the program available to more people in a wider area. So, beginning the first week of April, anyone will have access to palliative care, no matter who their doctor is or what clinic they use. Franciscan will launch a program aimed at making physicians in the region aware of the offering.

Two major changes accompany the policy change.

First, patients will no longer have to travel to a clinic to be receive the services of a Franciscan ARNP – an advanced registered nurse practitioner. Staff will visit patients where they live, whether in a private home or a care facility.

Second, the service will no longer be free.

Robinette said Franciscan will set rates in hopes of recovering 50 percent of the cost of the program.

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