Hospice of Okeechobee is second to none

OKEECHOBEE — Hospice of Okeechobee has partnered with Chapters Health in order to provide even better care for hospice patients and to enable them to offer some new benefits to their employees. There are five sister organizations within Chapters Health. Under the Chapters “umbrella,” Good Shepherd in Sebring is now a “sister” to Hospice of Okeechobee. Life Path in Tampa, HPH in Citrus County and Good Shepherd in Lakeland make up the rest of the family. There is also a home health agency called Achieve. In addition, they have a durable medical equipment company.

“All of these things come with the new partnership with Chapters,” said Executive Director Gail Gerntrup.

She has heard some people are concerned, thinking Hospice of Okeechobee has been bought out, but this is not the case at all, she said. Nonprofits cannot be bought or sold. ”Nobody sold. Nobody gave up the farm, none of that.” The board of directors agreed to an affiliation with Chapters. Small businesses have to have individual contracts with each of their vendors and pay huge prices because they do not have the volume, but by partnering with Chapters, the hospice is able to get the rate extended to larger businesses.

Insurance is one of the things they were able to get a lower rate for. In the past, they paid $20,000 a year for business insurance, and now it is nowhere near that amount. They were never able to offer a full benefit package to their employees before, but now they can.

“The benefits are huge, and they don’t cost that much,” she said. “The benefits are awesome, too — about the best I have had in my career, ever.” They can now buy supplies in bulk and get the little bitty price rather than the big fat one of the past. They also save on things like audits. Those used to cost thousands of dollars, she said, but now they use a CPA who is contracted with Chapters, and he does all the audits. “It is those types of things that will allow us to stay in business.”

There are now security cameras in the building, and that was something they could never afford to do before the partnership. They were able to get new computers and printers and “an IT person who is not me, guessing how to fix computer problems,” she laughed.

They are still not-for-profit. Chapters is not-for-profit. Some people think because they have a corporation it is a big corporate business, but Hospice of Okeechobee was corporate, too. “We were always Hospice of Okeechobee Inc., and no one ever said we were a big corporation,” she said. “Now we are Hospice of Okeechobee Inc., a Chapter affiliate.”

“It is a give and take relationship,” she said. “It’s not all take on our side. Hospice of Okeechobee is second to none, and we have a lot to offer.”

Recently, they had a conference call among some of the leadership, and someone shared that a hospice house in another county had just gotten its license and was opening. Because you have to have your Agency for Health Care Administration state license first before you can get your pharmacy license to have drugs inside your building, the new hospice said they were going to do what Okeechobee does and partner with a local pharmacy.

“They are learning things from us, too,” she said. “We have THE highest customer satisfaction scores in the entire state of Florida. It is a great partnership, because there are things they have that we can take advantage of and there are things we know and do that they can take advantage of. All of this results in better patient care for a lot more people.”

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