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Health News Florida

Jacksonville-Based Community Hospice Expands, Opening First Palatka Office

Starting Friday, a Jacksonville-based hospice care provider is expanding its services into 11 more counties.

A new office in Palatka represents the biggest growth for Community Hospice in its nearly 40-year history.

Community Hospice until now served five Northeast Florida counties. Soon it will serve 16, covering all of North-Central Florida.

CEO Susan Ponder-Stansel said the Palatka office is the first to open, before Lake City gets one in February and a Gainesville location opens in the spring. These aren’t treatment facilities, but rather home bases for caretakers.

“Most people are familiar with hospice facilities like our Earl Hadlow Center in Jacksonville, but actually under our regulations, the vast majority of our care is to be provided in the home,” she said.

Ponder-Stansel said after state healthcare regulators found an unmet need, her group applied to be the region’s caretaker through what’s called the certificate of need program.

“We noticed that a lot of the unserved hospice patients actually lived on the county that bordered our service area, and we realized that a lot of the folks who live in those counties come into Jacksonville or Orange Park for their medical care, and we thought it would be a great opportunity for us to extend the care that we give here and just follow those patients once they leave our area hospitals,” she said.

Ponder-Stansel said her company has already hired more than a dozen people for the Palatka office and she expects Community Hospice to see 200 patients on average after the expansion is complete.

Reporter Ryan Benk can be reached at , at (904) 358 6319 or on Twitter @RyanMichaelBenk .

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