Mercy Care, a nonprofit hospice based in Myrtle Beach, will merge with Lower Cape Fear Hospice & LifeCareCenter effective April 1, to strengthen the level of care offered in Horry, Georgetown and Marion counties.
Sara-Jo Faucher, executive director and CEO of Mercy Care, said the hospice has been looking for a partner for about a year when the health-care industry began to change with the Affordable Care Act. Mercy Care and the Wilmington, N.C.-based hospice, which were started in 1981 and 1980 respectively, have worked together in the past, she said, and have similar philosophies and goals.
“We’re very excited about this – we almost look like identical twins, but they’re much larger,” Faucher said. “With all the changes in health care regulations and the health care industry, and the increase of hospices here, the future has been questionable. … We knew that if we didn’t see significant growth, it was going to be very hard, with all these regulatory changes, to stay in business.”
Mercy Care has 65 employees, and Faucher said details still are being worked out for combining the hospices at the administrative level. She said Mercy Care will continue with its name and to provide the same quality care to about 130 hospice and palliative care patients it serves in the three counties. Lower Cape Fear Hospice serves more than 600 hospice and palliative care patients in Brunswick and five other counties in North Carolina.
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Laurie Bystrom, president and CEO of Lower Cape Fear Hospice, said the merger also will allow more people to be reached in the Mercy Care service area with non-reimbursed services, such as bereavement support, programs for teens and children, and care for patients who are not covered by Medicaid, Medicare or private insurance plans.
Faucher said the N.C. hospice also operates three in-patient hospice care centers for those who need short-term acute care, something Mercy Care has been working toward bringing to Horry County. Mercy Care owns 22 acres on the Waccamaw River off S.C. 90, which was purchased to build a care center, she said, but those plans are on hold until an appeals case is settled between the county and neighboring residents over zoning for the property.
Bystrom said the Lower Cape Fear Hospice team understands the importance of serving patients and families in their communities and in comfortable surroundings, and will continue to evaluate the needs for an inpatient hospice care center for Horry, Georgetown and Marion counties.