OTTUMWA — The Hospice House of Davis and Wapello Counties, will be closing Dec. 31.

The board of directors of the organization recently voted to close the house, perhaps only temporarily, because of a nationwide nursing shortage. However, Hospice will continue to deliver services to patients in their homes, nursing homes and assisted living facilities.

The Hospice facility will continue to be used as the headquarters for in-home Hospice care, bereavement services, volunteer services, and administrative offices.

The closing of Hospice House, located at 927 E. Pennsylvania Ave. in Ottumwa, was not an easy decision, Hospice Executive Director Angie Rozenboom said on the organization's website. She also hopes it's an interim solution as the organization determines the best way to meet the needs of meet the needs of terminally ill patients in the area.

"The closing of the Hospice House was not a financial decision," she said. "This decision was based on having the inability to maintain adequate staffing to meet our patients' needs and provide the best possible end-of-life care."

"Our goal is to re-open Hospice House if sufficient qualified Hospice healthcare staff becomes available in our area,” Rozenboom said. "We know that Hospice House holds a special place in the hearts of many patients, families, friends, volunteers, and staff. Hospice, Serving Davis and Wapello Counties, is grateful for the community’s support throughout the years, and we hope we can count on the continued support as we move forward."

Rozenboom said Hospice's services will not lessen because of the closure.

"Hospice's in-home team will continue to ensure that each Hospice patient and their family is treated with love, dignity, and respect, and that they receive the highest quality of patient care possible," she said.

Nursing shortages have been periodic across the country for many years, but it has reached a critical point of late, with rural communities being hit hardest. Studies show that less than 20% of the country's registered nurses live in rural areas.

The shortage of skilled nurses entering and staying in the workforce affects both patient care and other healthcare workers on the team, and as affected Hospice House as well.

“Hospice has been struggling to adequately staff both our in-home Hospice care program and our Hospice House,” Rozenboom said. “Having fewer nurses available to spread the workload is guaranteed to add layers of stress onto other staff.

"With most patients being cared for with hospice services in their own home, Hospice has been forced to match our available workforce to the greatest number of patients served.”

Established in 1982, Hospice, Serving Davis and Wapello Counties, has provided quality end-of-life care for more than 39 years. Hospice will continue to serve all of Davis and Wapello Counties as well as the surrounding townships in Appanoose, Jefferson, Keokuk, Mahaska, Monroe, and Van Buren Counties.

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