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McCall joins dedication of Jamaica hospice unit

For the third time in a little more than two years the Margaret Tietz Center for Nursing in Jamaica has expanded its hospice unit for critically ill patients.

State Comptroller H. Carl McCall and state Assemblyman Brian McLaughlin (D-Flushing) joined Kenneth Brown, president and chief executive officer of Tietz, to cut the ribbon and rededicate the Jamaica Estates facility.

“I am pleased that the initial success of the Margaret Tietz Comfort Care Hospice Unit and that the significant interest generated by hospice home care agencies have led to the expansion from an eight-bed unit to a 23-bed unit,” McCall said.

“This is a prime example of how nursing homes have devised innovative way to meet patients’ needs as our population ages,” McCall said, “and of their strong commitment to providing comfort and dignity for families confronted with end of life issues.”

He told the crowd of more than 25 staff members and volunteers that their dedication and service was vital since Americans are living longer and healthier lives. It is not only the patients, McCall said, who benefit from the staff’s dedication. The families who have had a loved one die are also comforted.

McCall is running for governor and faces off against Andrew Cuomo in the September Democratic primary.

Hospice care is critical at the end of one’s life, he said, and should be included in the state’s Adult Health Plus and Child Health Plus medical plans. McCall said he unsuccessfully tried to persuade Gov. George Pataki to incorporate the hospice care into the plans, but the governor refused. Now the state Legislature has passed bills adding hospice coverage to both health insurance plans.

“The new legislation will allow us to be more accessible to those in the community who can’t utilize our service,” Brown said. “The poor traditionally have not been able to utilize health care.”

The Margaret Tietz Center for Nursing Care is a non-profit elderly facility which opened its doors in 1971. It provides a number of services for senior citizens from long-term care to short-term rehabilitation to adult day health care to a hospice. It has 140 private and 30 semi-private beds with a staff of more than 300 people.

The hospice, which now has 23 beds, is the only residential health care facility in Queens. When it opened in November 2000, there were eight beds; it expanded to 14 beds in September 2001 and 23 beds this month.

The the hospice program allows people to spend their last days in a comfortable environment surrounded by their loved ones and staff members who care for their emotional and physical needs, said Linda Spiegel, director of public affairs.

She said a number of people want to spend their final days at home, but many family members do not have the ability to provide this care.

With the population of the United States aging, Spiegel said, patients and doctors need to be educated about the programs offered. Family members are also suffering with the loss of their parent, she said, and Tietz offers them a support system and bereavement counseling.

“We are the only inpatient hospice in the borough, but there are scatter beds in hospitals,” she said.

Scatter beds in a hospital are designated for hospice care but still give the feeling that the patient is in an institutional setting.

“We treat our residents as if it was their home,” she said.

Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.

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