The CNMI is just a step away from setting up a hospice program on the islands, with two private home care providers awaiting the approval of their certification to offer this service.
Commonwealth Cancer Association board president David Rosario announced Tuesday that Marianas Health, LLC and Marianas Visiting Nurses are “really interested” to get the hospice program up and running.
“They're waiting for the license and they're almost there,” Rosario said in an interview after Joeten Charitable Foundation executives presented their donation for CCA's signature event, the Marianas March Against Cancer.
Lauri Ogumoro, CCA board vice president, said that foundation president Frances T. Demapan was instrumental in pushing for the creation of a hospice program in the Commonwealth.
Demapan's husband, former chief justice Miguel S. Damapan, had undergone surgeries for colon cancer and passed away on June 30, 2012. He was 59.
Ogumoro said that CCA's role is to support the development of hospice care for the community. The group worked hard to organize last year a series of forums that would give hospice proponents a “holistic approach” in setting up the program by gathering experts such as the owner of a successful hospice program in Guam, medical providers, lawmakers, and spiritual leaders who could share their perspectives and insights.
“The CNMI community has beautiful cultural practices to support death and dying. But there's still a lot of fear among family members when they're caring for someone in their home. Part of the hospice is to help the family understand the whole process of dying,” Ogumoro told Saipan Tribune.
Tuesday's announcement was confirmed separately by representatives of Marianas Visiting Nurses and Marianas Health, LLC.
Maureen Sebangiol, Marianas Health director of quality assurance, said yesterday that their company is already Medicare-certified for homecare. However, they would need a separate certification specific for hospice, for which they applied last November.
According to Sebangiol, hospice care involves more than what they offer in home care since it also includes pastoral services and more intense social work, among others.
She explained that a certification would mean that Medicare and Medicaid would pay for home care services “so that families don't have to add that to what they're dealing with.”
Sebangiol pointed out that having a hospice program in the Commonwealth would allow those who are terminally ill to have “better pain control.”
She said that many dying patients across the nation prefer to die at home but end up being taken to hospitals because their family members don't know what to do with the pain that their dying loved one goes through.
“Nobody educated them what to expect,” said Sebangiol. “Nothing's harder to endure than seeing somebody you love suffer. One of the best things about hospice is being able to have a dignified death at home, on that person's terms, and have it as pain-free as possible.”
Sebangiol disclosed that the issue of hospice is “something we feel passionate about” as many of the patients they have for home care, both now and in the past, could fall into hospice care “but we can't offer ourselves as hospice service yet.”
“With a hospice program, there would be more resources to be able to offer to patients and their families so that they can have as much control of their end of life as possible,” she added.