TEXAS CITY — Two months after the nonprofit hospice that serves Galveston and Brazoria counties decided to reverse a decision to cease operations, the future looks a bit brighter.
Hospice Care Team, the only nonprofit hospice in the county, got a boost when the United Way Galveston County Mainland provided a one-time $20,000 grant. It got some more help when Texas First Bank offered a low-interest loan.
“(The grant) was a godsend,” Hospice Care Team board Vice President Bruce Clawson said. “It helped us make payroll. (The loan) was very favorable. Texas First Bank essentially gave us a $15,000 signature loan to help us bridge the gap.”
Hospice care provides end of life care for patients with terminal illnesses as well as counseling and other support services for their families.
In June, the Hospice Care Team board voted to shut down. Funds had dried up and the number of indigent patients outpaced those who paid for the service.
The board had hoped a Houston-based nonprofit hospice would take over. But when negotiations stalled and a consultant advised the board that there was a chance to survive, the organization decided to give it one last go.
About a third of its staff was let go, and officials asked doctors to recommend more paying patients to their service.
“It had gotten to the point that many physicians would only refer those patients who couldn’t afford to pay,” Clawson said. “Now we are working to have a better balance.”
Hospice Care Team suggests to doctors that for every non-paying patient, they refer two to three patients who have the ability to pay or insurance to cover expenses.
The group has 52 patients in its care now. Of those 40 are in Galveston County and 12 in Brazoria County.
Clawson said the group is in talks with a marketing firm to help find ways to get more patients, especially in Brazoria County. Hospice Care Team also serves parts of Matagorda County.
A company that specializes in medical billing and accounting will also be brought in to help Hospice Care Team increase revenue while cutting administration costs.
“Right now we are getting our house in order,” Clawson said. “It is still a day-to-day struggle. It is somewhat an easier struggle, but still a struggle.”
Hospice Care Team is also looking at ways to increase how much it receives in donations. Clawson said the group is working with the Lighthouse Charity Team to host a fundraiser that could boost its donation base.
Changes were made to the nonprofit’s website to make it easier for people to donate, he said.
“A $100 donation from someone would make a lot of a difference,” Clawson said. “You get several of those on a regular basis and soon we have a better ability to provide more services to patients.”
Through the reorganization process, Clawson said he and other board members have been “inspired” by the efforts of the staffers that remain.
“The staff has been picking up a greater load because of the cuts,” he said. “They have done that and we are delighted. But we have found too that in many cases they were spending their own money to buy supplies. They would buy their own pens and even toilet paper so that we could save money.
“It was heartbreaking and heartwarming to see such dedication from these people.”
The focus now is on restructuring the management of the organization. That includes replacing “antiquated and outdated” billing and tracking systems, Clawson said.
“We’re also looking to help our employees become more efficient,” he said.
To help save money, Lori Carnes, the Hospice Care Team board president, is also serving as a non-paid executive director.
“She won’t be able to keep that up forever and we will have to hire someone,” Clawson said. “For now that is helping us save a lot of money.”
Once the internal restructuring is done, the group will focus on a fundraising campaign, Clawson said.
Hospice Care Team timeline
•1981 Concerned Galveston County residents gathered to discuss the unmet needs of those in our community with life-limiting conditions and formed the first official Board of Trustees of Galveston Hospice Group, Inc.
•1983 The first patient was served and the first volunteer training class was conducted for the first hospice in the area.
•1985 The organization received Medicare certification.
•1987 Name changed to Hospice of Galveston County to reflect growth throughout Galveston County.
•1997 Name changed to Hospice Care Team, Inc., as the service area expanded into Brazoria and south Harris Counties.
•2000 Second office was opened in Lake Jackson. Services expanded to parts of Matagorda County
• June 2014 Hospice Care Team announces it will cease operations. The board later reverses that decision. Lays off about a third of its staff.
• July 2014 United Way Galveston County Mainland gives Hospice Care Team a $20,000 grant. Texas First Bank arranges a favorable term $15,000 loan.