Duke Endowment grant helps fund Beaufort Memorial’s new Palliative Care Program

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By Marie McAden

The Duke Endowment has awarded Beaufort Memorial Hospital (BMH) a grant to help pay for supportive care for patients living with life-threatening illness.

The hospital will receive $375,000 over three years for its Palliative Care Program, designed to improve the quality of life of patients suffering from incurable or chronic medical conditions like cancer, congestive heart failure, multiple sclerosis, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

“Receiving the grant from the Duke Endowment was a game-changer,” BMH Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kurt Gambla said. “It allowed us to implement the program, helping fill a big gaping hole in the array of services we provide.” 

Based in Charlotte and established in 1924 by industrialist and philanthropist James B. Duke, The Duke Endowment is a private foundation whose mission is to strengthen communities in North Carolina and South Carolina by nurturing children, promoting health, educating minds and enriching spirits. Since its founding, it has distributed more than $3.7 billion in grants, and while the Endowment shares a name with Duke University and Duke Energy, all are separate organizations.

BMH launched the Palliative Care Program in August in partnership with SC House Calls, a network of South Carolina medical professionals that brings home-based care directly to the patient. The physician service is providing BMH with a nurse practitioner and medical director to work with Beaufort Memorial’s Jennifer Massey, a licensed social worker and manager of the program.

In its first five months, the program provided services to nearly 250 patients, far exceeding expectations. 

“It’s not just about symptom management,” Massey said. “We look at the whole person and the patient’s specific needs. We work with the patient, their caregivers and family to help patient’s match their treatment options with their own personal goals for care.”

In addition to improving the quality of life of the patient, palliative care has been shown to offer cost-saving benefits by reducing readmissions to the hospital. 

Patients can be referred to the program by the doctor treating them at BMH, their primary care physician, nurse, care coordinator or through a screening process that helps identify candidates when they are admitted to the hospital. Approval of the patient’s attending physician must be obtained before palliative care can be initiated.

Although palliative care can be provided to patients of any age, Beaufort Memorial is focusing on its adult population. The supportive care services are available at any stage of a serious illness, from diagnosis through illness progression. 

The care typically begins while the patient is in the hospital for treatment. Massey and the nurse practitioner meet with the patient to discuss physical, psychological and spiritual concerns, advance-care planning and decision-maker preferences. Supportive care team members, including the hospital chaplain, dietitian and pharmacist, can be called in as needed.

“Palliative care provides an added layer of support to our patients and their families,” Massey said. “We work as part of the BMH medical team to ensure patients have a good understanding of their illness, provide them with emotional and spiritual support and connect them with out-patient community resources to help them maintain the best quality of life possible.”

For more information on Beaufort Memorial Hospital’s Palliative Care Program, visit BeaufortMemorial.org or call 843-522-7320.

Photo by Paul Nurnberg