Mercy launches hospice service

July 2, 2012

For 85 years in Independence, Mercy providers have cared for area residents at all stages of life.

Mercy delivers more than 250 babies each year. Its pediatricians care for infants through adolescents. Primary care providers, specialists and therapists treat all ailments that accompany aging and perform necessary surgeries to help patients continue functioning in their daily lives. Diagnosticians perform screenings for routine health maintenance and ER providers respond to the life’s unforeseen health events.

Inpatient nurses offer round-the-clock care for a period of time until patients are back on their feet, and home health co-workers continue care to those who’ve gone home but require ongoing attention.

Mercy Hospice, a new service beginning in July, will further round out Mercy’s scope of care.

“As a health care organization, we’re programmed to make people well, make people better,” said Eric Ammons, president/CEO of Mercy Hospital Independence. “Our history to this point has been to focus on all stages of life, except one, and that is death.

“While we are well equipped to support patients and their loved ones in times of crisis – whether it be a catastrophic death in our ER or a patient at the end of his or her life on our inpatient floor – until now, we’ve not had a mechanism for planning ahead, for providing appropriate medical care and comfort measures earlier in the dying process and according to the patient’s own wishes.”

Mercy Hospice, Ammons explained, will involve a team of providers including physicians, nurses, chaplains, social workers and volunteers, to provide medical care and emotional support to patients with terminal illness and to also support loved ones and family members.

Hospice services will be available 24/7 and include nursing care; medication; medical equipment, supplies and therapies as appropriate; pain management; coordination of short-term hospital stays if needed; respite care for caregivers; coordination of needed social support services; emotional and spiritual support for patients and loved ones; and bereavement support for families.

Ronda Howerter, director of Mercy Home Health and Hospice, noted the new service is ready to launch with the recent hiring of a nurse manager, chaplain and social worker dedicated to the program. The first day of the new service will be July 2.

Howerter also noted a key component for a comprehensive hospice service will be volunteer involvement, and Mercy is currently seeking volunteers for the program.

“Volunteers play a very important role in the care and support of our patients,” Howerter said, “and we will need lots of them to make the program successful.”

Howerter explained that volunteers provide companionship for patients and also respite time for caregivers. They may perform light housekeeping duties around the patient’s home, be involved in community education about hospice, assist with bereavement support if needed and even provide clerical assistance or participate in special events, such as health fairs.

More information on hospice service and volunteer opportunities is available by calling 620-332-3215.

Mercy is the sixth largest Catholic health care system in the U.S. and serves more than 3 million people annually. Mercy includes 31 hospitals, more than 200 outpatient facilities, 38,000 co-workers and 1,600 integrated physicians in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. Mercy also has outreach ministries in Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas. For more about Mercy, visit