End of nursing home agreement frustrating for Prairie Home Hospice

MARSHALL – The end of a partnership between two Marshall area care providers has been an occasion for some mixed feelings, area residents said this week.

In May, Prairie Home Hospice got notice that its annual agreement to provide hospice care to residents of the Avera Morningside Heights Care Center in Marshall was being terminated, said Prairie Home Hospice Director Pat Mellenthin. While the hospice will continue to serve area families, Mellenthin said the end of the agreement with Morningside Heights would take away one option for nursing home residents.

Prairie Home Hospice needs to have service agreements in place in order to go into hospitals and nursing homes and provide hospice care to patients, Mellenthin said. Mellenthin said Prairie Home Hospice still has a service agreement to provide hospice care for patients at Avera Marshall Regional Medical Center. However, as of May 31, they could no longer provide hospice care for residents at Morningside Heights.

News of the service agreement’s termination went out to Prairie Home Hospice supporters in the hospice’s May newsletter. While the newsletter said Prairie Home Hospice hadn’t received a specific reason for the termination, it also said it was Prairie Home’s understanding that Avera Marshall would be offering its own hospice services in the future.

Deann Holland, community relations director at Avera Marshall, said this week she could not yet comment on whether Avera Marshall would be offering hospice care. However, Holland said more information would be available later this summer.

Mellenthin said it wouldn’t be a bad thing to have additional options for hospice care in the Marshall area, but it didn’t seem right to take away Prairie Home Hospice as a choice for Morningside Heights residents. The Prairie Home Hospice newsletter also framed the matter in the terms of patient choice for health care providers.

“That’s what’s really at the bottom of it all, is the patient and their right to choose,” Mellenthin said this week.

One Marshall resident said the transition period before the end of Prairie Home Hospice’s contract was also confusing and frustrating for their family. Julie McDaniel said when she was pursuing hospice care for her mother at Morningside Heights this spring, she assumed it would be Prairie Home Hospice providing the care. McDaniel said she later learned that wasn’t the case – and that her mother would have to be moved out of Morningside Heights in order to receive care from Prairie Home Hospice.

“It was very frustrating and hurtful. When you’re in that situation, it’s already highly emotional,” McDaniel said of the experience.

While McDaniel said her mother was able to get into a bed at the Prairie Home Hospice house, she wondered if other families would have the opportunity, or even be told about their options.

Mellenthin said Prairie Home Hospice has served area community members for 30 years, and will continue to do so. She said the hospice didn’t want to cause controversy over the end of the service agreement with Morningside Heights.

“We don’t think the community needs more controversy,” she said. However, losing a working relationship with Morningside Heights was still frustrating. “We should be working as partners in the community,” she said.