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Look How Far We’ve Come: 40 Years of Hospice Care
By Evalisa McClure

Death and dying is a part of life. It’s still a taboo topic here in Pittsburgh and throughout the United States, but as a hospice advocate, I know we’ve come a long way. Hospice was inspired by the concept of improving quality of life at the end of life by providing comfort to patients in order to preserve their dignity in the face of terminal illness.

Pioneering the American hospice movement, VITAS Healthcare—the nation’s leading provider of end-of-life care—is celebrating four decades of compassionate care for hospice patients and their families. Founded in 1978 in Miami, VITAS was one of the nation’s first hospice programs.

The company’s story began in 1976, when Hugh Westbrook, an ordained United Methodist minister, and Esther Colliflower, a registered nurse, saw a gap in the treatment of people with terminal illnesses. Shortly after establishing their hospice company in 1978, they teamed up with Don Gaetz, a Florida hospital administrator, to pass the first-in-the-nation hospice licensure law in 1979, defining hospice care in Florida, which immediately became a model for other states and the federal government.
VITAS was part of the Medicare National Hospice Demonstration Project, which led to the passage of hospice reimbursement legislation in 1982. As a result, Medicare, Medicaid, and virtually all private insurers and managed care plans provide coverage for hospice patients.

VITAS ensures that terminally ill patients of all lifestyles and their families have access to compassionate and high-quality hospice care. Since its founding, VITAS has cared for more than 1.6 million patients.
Today 115 VITAS professionals provide care to 220 patients daily throughout Pittsburgh and Western PA. Nationally, it’s 12,000 employees and nearly 18,000 patients each day. Our employees are the hearts, hands and experts of the VITAS way of doing hospice. They are the reason families have invited VITAS into their homes for 40 years.

The opportunity to provide dignity to people at the end of their lives is more than our work—it is our calling. The deep commitment and dedication of every employee is evident, from the visionaries who founded this company to those who provide compassion and care every single day. I’m so proud of the work we do and the individual and team contributions that makes VITAS so special for our patients and their families.

Evalisa McClure is General Manager of VITAS Healthcare in Pittsburgh.
For more information about end-of-life care options or employment and volunteer opportunities in hospice, call VITAS Healthcare at 866-759-6695 or visit VITAS.com.

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