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Advocates told Hiland Hospice will remain open in Petoskey

Exterior of the Hiland Cottage Hospice House at 1 Hiland Drive, Petoskey, MI.
Michael Livingston
Exterior of the Hiland Cottage Hospice House at 1 Hiland Drive, Petoskey, MI.

A group of advocates focused on keeping a hospice facility open in Petoskey say they’ve had some success.

For the past several weeks, the Friends of Hiland Cottage Hospice has been gathering community support for the inpatient facility located at 1 Hiland Drive.

After McLaren announced last month that it would be consolidating its inpatient hospice care in Northern Michigan by closing a different facility in Cheboygan, the group worried the Hiland Cottage would meet the same fate.

But members the group said they were told that’s not the case in a statement sent to local media on Oct. 3.

The Friends of Hiland Cottage Hospice said they met with McLaren Northern Michigan executives and were told there are no plans to close down the facility.

“We were able to productively talk about funding opportunities and ways the community can move forward to support not only the Highland cottage hospice, but also the hospital,” said David McBride, a local business owner who represents the Friends of Hiland Cottage Hospice.

The statement from the Friends group says they met with McLaren interim CEO Chad Grant, local hospital board member Steve Brown, Chief Clinical Officer Justin Klamerus, and Bart Buxton, the CEO of McLaren Health Management Group.

The supporters of the Petoskey facility said they'd been requesting a meeting with executives for months to discuss ways to better finance hospice operations as McLaren faces what it calls "increasingly difficult post-pandemic challenges, including widespread staff shortages and burnout, rising expenses and regulatory burden, and reduced funding and reimbursement."

McBride said the group collected over 1,500 signatures on a letter of support for Hiland Cottage. The group also held a support rally on Oct. 2 in front of the McLaren Northern Michigan Hospital in Petoskey which had dozens of participants.

“The tremendous outpouring of support, over such a short period of time has truly been amazing and heartwarming," McBride said.

Hiland Cottage is owned and operated by McLaren Northern Michigan. But it was built in the early 2000s thanks to grassroots fundraising. Hospice is typically offered to people with terminal illnesses. It prioritizes comfort and reduces suffering, not just for the patient, but also for their loved ones.

Hiland Cottage is an in-patient facility but McLaren previously said it will focus out-patient care in the region - when staff visits patients in their home rather than admitting them in a residential care facility.

"McLaren is unwaveringly committed to finding and maintaining a sustainable hospice care model to ensure the entire Northern Michigan community has access to dignified end-of-life services now and into the future," McLaren said in a Oct. 3 statement. "We are in the process of evaluating how best to achieve that mission in the wake of national staffing shortages, reductions in funding and reimbursement, and local and national trends of patients’ and their families increasingly preferring to receive personalized, end-of-life care in the comfort and familiarity of their own homes."

The Friends of Hiland Cottage Hospice said they will meet with hospital executives again at the end of October to discuss plans to fund hospice operations.

McBride said specific terms were not discussed Monday but that helping the Hiland Cottage will likely involve some form of community fundraising.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.