TEXAS CITY — A day after the county’s only nonprofit hospice provider announced it would cease operations, “a guardian angel” has stepped up to fill the void.

Hospice Care Team, which provides hospice services in Galveston and Brazoria counties, announced it would soon shut down because of a lack of funds. The 30-year-old nonprofit stopped accepting new patients Monday and confirmed it would continue to provide services to its remaining 57 patients before closing its doors.

When making the announcement Tuesday, Hospice Care Team’s Board President Ron Martin said he was in talks with another provider he hoped would step in and provide services in the county. Late Wednesday, Martin said he successfully negotiated a deal for Houston Hospice to take over for Hospice Care Team.

“(Houston Hospice) will hire all of our staff and assist our patients,” Martin said. “We hoped to have them taking new patients starting July 1.”

Houston Hospice is also a nonprofit. Martin said that “out of respect” for Hospice Care Team, Houston Hospice had not attempted to provide services in the county.

Officials with Houston Hospice could not be reached Wednesday night.

Kirsti Krejs, president and CEO of Texas Non-Profit Hospice Alliance, hailed the announcement.

“Houston Hospice is excellent, and patients in your community would be in good hands with them,” she said. “Houston Hospice is a fabulous organization that has been giving top-notch hospice care in the community since 1980.”

What wasn’t clear is what level of indigent care Houston Hospice would provide. As much as 20 percent of the patient care provided by Hospice Care Team was charity or unfunded care, Martin said.

That is more than twice the rate that most nonprofit hospice groups provide and may have contributed to Hospice Care Team’s financial woes.

Just three years ago, Hospice Care Team was looking forward to building its own center on donated property. As demand increased and funding dwindled, those plans were dashed.

Martin said that he had to cash in a pair of $50,000 certificates of deposit just to meet the organization’s $100,000 payroll two weeks ago.

Adding to the financial strain, federal reimbursement for services never met the costs of providing services, Martin said.

Houston Hospice is a much larger organization and provides services in Austin, Colorado, Fort Bend, Harris, Jackson, Matagorda, Montgomery, Waller and Wharton counties. It had also provided some services in Brazoria County, but not in communities served by Hospice Care Team.

Martin said he was happy for Hospice Care Team’s employees who will now all work for Houston Hospice.

“They are such a dedicated group of employees,” he said. “We had some offering to give us their paychecks back or take a pay cut to help us stay afloat.”

Martin said as word spread about the pending shutdown, even one patient offered to give money to Hospice Care Team in addition to the insurance payments that covered her care.

He was able to tell staff at Hospice Care Team’s Lake Jackson office the good news Wednesday afternoon. A similar announcement was made at the organizations Texas City office.

“There were a lot of crying because our mission will continue,” he said. “It may not be the same name, but people will be cared for.”

Contact Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

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