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Hospice plans eastern expansion


At any given time, Hospice of Central Iowa usually has about 10 terminally ill patients on the waiting list for a bed in one of its two Kavanagh House facilities in Des Moines.

With a new 24-bed facility planned for Des Moines’ East Side, the not-for-profit organization hopes to eliminate the waiting list and provide care for an additional 500 patients each year.

Hospice of Central Iowa has entered into a contract to buy a 9.5-acre parcel on Easton Boulevard that was formerly used as a greenhouse area for a florist. The facility, to be named the Bright House in honor of hospice supporters Lois and Dale Bright, will be similar in design to the two Kavanagh Houses, said Bill Havekost, president and chief executive of Hospice of Central Iowa.

“We really wanted to be a part of the East Side because we really didn’t have a presence there,” he said. The organization has begun a campaign to raise the $6 million needed for the project.

In addition to obtaining the money, the hospice must meet a stipulation in the purchase contract that requires the organization to obtain the required zoning changes and permits from the city to locate a hospice there.

Hospice officials had planned to apply to the city of Des Moines’ Zoning Board of Adjustment for a special permit to operate a hospice at the location, which is now zoned as a low-density residential district, at the board’s April 28 meeting. However, opposition from some adjoining residents has caused them to postpone making that request, Havekost said.

“Because we have individuals living on the East Side who are opposed to this facility, we need more time to sit down and discuss the issues with them,” he said. Some residents wanted a townhouse development to be built there instead, he said.

Officials at Erickson Corp., a development company that owns the land, had considered building townhouses on the site before Hospice of Central Iowa approached them, but found that such a project would not have been financially feasible, said its president, Jan Beal.

“I really don’t have any comment one way or the other regarding any dispute,” Beal said. “We’re for the hospice and we look forward to working with them, and we look forward to having them on the East Side.”

This year, Hospice of Central Iowa expects to serve more than 1,400 patients, the majority of whom receive care in their own homes. Of those, up to 500 each year will use the 21 beds at the Kavanagh House facilities.

With the current demand for hospice care and the aging population of Baby Boomers, Havekost said, “not only do we have a huge need now, we know what’s facing us down the road.”   

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