Chaplaincy delays hospice project over rising costs

Chaplaincy Health Care is delaying construction of a 10-bed hospice house at the Richland Wye after construction estimates rose 30% past the $5 million price tag.

The nonprofit intended to begin construction on a replacement for Chaplaincy Hospice House this fall at 1336 Spaulding Ave., near its Fowler Street administrative office.

Instead, it will make updates to its existing hospice facility in Kennewick to extend its useful life by about five years.

Costs coupled with Covid-related challenges to fundraising prompted the board to rethink the timing, said Tom Corley, a retired hospital executive who is serving as Chaplaincy’s second interim executive director.

A nationwide search to replace Gary Castillo, who departed in the spring, is ongoing. Bob Rosselli, a board member who stepped in as interim, left in July.

Chaplaincy hired Richland’s Bouten Construction, a veteran hospital builder, to assess the existing hospice building, which was constructed by volunteers in 1996 on West Entiat Avenue behind First Lutheran Church.

Bouten will recommend repairs and updates to the board, along with cost estimates. The board will choose which to pursue.

Corley and hospice staffers say the new building will serve a need, but the existing one remains useful and occupies a sacred space in the lives of patients and families facing death.

“Hospice house is going to be here,” Corley said.

He stressed that the new hospice is delayed, not canceled.

Chaplaincy began contemplating the new building about four years ago. While the Kennewick hospice building is operational, it is about 25 years old and lacks the hospital-grade touches required in modern medical settings.

Updates to the Americans with Disabilities Act are always a challenge in older buildings, Corley said.

The board looked at the costs and the estimated life of the building and concluded it made more sense to build than to renovate.

Staff look forward to having more room for families, private bathrooms for patients, a commercial kitchen and cooking facilities for families and in-room equipment such as oxygen that the future building will offer.

Chaplaincy raised money to support the project and purchased a 2.6-acre site at the Port of Kennewick’s Spaulding Business Park in early 2020.

It was to be a centerpiece for Chaplaincy’s golden anniversary this year.

Chaplaincy formed in 1971 to provide chaplains of all faiths to the community. Four local churches sponsored the undertaking. Today, 31 churches support its mission to provide spiritual support the community. Hospice is one aspect of that.

It incorporated in 1974 and accepted its first hospice patient in 1981.

It has touched thousands of Tri-City families. In late September, hospice was serving 136 patients in home settings and three at the hospice house. The census was low because half of its five rooms were closed off while a new HVAC system was installed.

Cancer is the most common reason patients seek hospice. Others include Lou Gehrig’s disease and heart, lung and liver disease. It is also supporting pandemic victims, though most have underlying conditions exacerbated by Covid.

Hospice house offers a respite for caregivers, with patients staying up to five days. It also provides in-patient care for those who need intensive treatment to manage pain.

It provides supportive care rather than treatment to patients with a terminal diagnosis and an estimate of six months or less to live.

Chaplaincy’s mission also includes providing chaplains to local hospitals, jails and the Benton-Franklin Juvenile Justice Center in Kennewick. It supports those who are grieving, including youth through its Cork’s Place setting.

In mid-September, Chaplaincy sent grief specialists to Pasco to support students and staff at Longfellow Elementary after the inexplicable murder of a school bus driver in front of his 35 elementary school passengers.

When the time is right, the new building is nearly ready to submit for building permits.

ALSC Architects of Spokane and Knutzen Engineering of Kennewick created plans, which are more than 99% complete.

At Spaulding Street, archaeological test pits were dug to scrutinize the land for Native American remains or artifacts.

The future hospice will be accessed via Denver Street, with a secondary driveway on Spaulding shared with Cherry Creek Mortgage.

The 12,113-square-foot building will have 10 rooms – the same as the current building – with room to add 10 more in a future 8,500-square-foot wing.

This spring, Chaplaincy submitted plans for review under the Washington State Environmental Review Act program, or SEPA. The project won’t adversely impact the environment, the review found.

Chaplaincy Health previously curtailed programs as the Covid-19 pandemic affected fee-paying services that supported other programs.

In late 2020, it made the “gut wrenching” decision to stop offering palliative care, which is not covered by Medicare. Those services ended in December.

In 2020, Chaplaincy served 1,131 hospice patients and their families, 437 palliative care patients and 279 children and teens through Cork’s Place.

The pandemic also curtailed activities, including its reliance on volunteers. It will, however, hold its primary fundraiser of the year, in November, although it had to cancel plans for an in-person event at the Three Rivers Convention Center. A virtual Lighting the Path breakfast fundraiser is set for 7:30-8:30 a.m. Nov. 9.

To support chaplaincy, operations and construction, go to chaplaincyhealthcare.org/lighting-the-path.

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