Members of the Tennessee State Health Care Development Agency voted 7-3 on Wednesday to approve an application for a Certificate of Need for Hearth, LLC, a locally-owned hospice by Dr. Deanna Duncan. The hospice will provide highly-personalized consistent quality care to a nine county area in Southeast Tennessee, officials said.
The application was hotly contested by Hospice of Chattanooga during a two and one-half hour hearing in Nashville.
Chattanooga native and board certified hospice and palliative care physician Dr.
Duncan said, “This is my life’s work and I have a clear vision for bringing innovative, exemplary hospice care to my hometown. I’m looking forward to offering compassionate care not only to the patients I serve, but also to the outstanding team being assembled to work side by side with me.”
She said Hearth "not only will provide palliative and hospice care, but will also provide bereavement services and has a research and innovation component in its overall plan for operation."
The business will be located just off of Main Street in Chattanooga on Rossville Avenue. Along with the medical components of the practice, Hearth will also provide a nurturing environment for employees by providing emergency daycare; flexible hours; and, a generous vacation plan to encourage downtime for professional staff, it was stated.
"This is incredibly stressful work, perhaps the most demanding area in health care because it is so high-touch and staff members become attached to patients and families," said Dr. Duncan. "We have to take care of employees, too, so they can keep on doing this work."
Dr. Duncan said, “I have a long time commitment to hospice patients, their family members and my staff. I am thrilled beyond belief that I will now have the opportunity to put this commitment into a practice that will provide care to those who need it most.”
The application submitted by Dr. Duncan included approximately 150 letters of support from physicians, patients, elected officials and business leaders from around the region.
Dr. Duncan is a Chattanooga native who is double board certified in both Family Practice and in Hospice and Palliative Medicine. She was recently named to the Public Policy Committee of the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine and has been a member of the Research Committee of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization since 2010.
In addition to providing hospice care to help terminally ill patients, Dr. Duncan will provide physician home visits for chronically ill patients who are not sick enough for hospice care. Hospice care is for people with a prognosis of less than six months to live, but according to Dr. Duncan, there are many homebound and debilitated people who are not eligible for hospice care but are too sick to travel.
"Many very sick people -- particularly the very old and the very young -- bounce back and forth to the Emergency Room in ambulances because they are too frail to ride in a car and they do not have physician home visits," said Dr. Duncan. "That's hard on them and very expensive. These people are severely underserved, and I think it is so important to give them the type of care they need."