Kaweah Health Acquires the Ruth Wood Open Arms House
Last updated 1/8/2022 at 7:24pm | View PDF
Covid 19 has claimed another victim, but this time it's a local nonprofit organization.
The Ruth Wood Open Arms House cared for its final patient this past July, then stopped accepting patients shortly thereafter. At the beginning of the pandemic, the locally owned and operated hospice was forced to close for most of 2020, before reopening its doors to patients in October that year.
Then in late September 2021, a letter sent to donors, volunteers, and community supporters from Board President Peter Sherwood announced the organization would be transferring ownership to the Kaweah Health Hospice Foundation.
"We worked very closely with the staff there," said Tiffany Bullock, director of Hospice, Home Health & Home Care Services for Kaweah Health. "The Open Arms House is something desperately needed by the community."
Bullock and Ryan Howard, medical director of Kaweah Health Hospice and Inpatient Palliative Services, agreed the social model adopted by the Open Arms House will continue to be used when Kaweah Health Hospice is licensed by the state to resume operations at 3234 S. Iris Ave. in Visalia. Once approved, it will continue to offer six hospice beds in a setting that looks more like a home than a typical medical facility.
"This historic blending of a non-medical hospice house with a hospital-owned not-for-profit hospice agency will serve as a model for other communities to follow as they address the ongoing challenges in 'completing the circle of life,'" Sherwood wrote in his letter.
"They anticipated their need for collaboration with us, that the change may be on the horizon," said Dr. Howard, adding that the discussions began as early as the spring of 2021.
Bullock said the hope is that the newly branded Kaweah Health Ruth Wood Open Arms House will be licensed and ready to start accepting patients in the spring of 2022, although that depends on when the state licensing agency processes the application. The state, like many other employers, is short-staffed and behind in its efforts to process a mountain of paperwork.
While the social model, the home-like atmosphere and the policy of providing care regardless of a patient's ability to pay will remain unchanged, the biggest difference Bullock said will be the financial backing of the Kaweah Health Hospice Foundation.
"Our hospice foundation will help us with the expenses," she said. "Everyone will have the ability to use the home if needed. Having (Kaweah Health Hospice Foundation's) commitment to do this allows us the ability to provide the service to anyone."
For more information, or to donate or volunteer, visit the Kaweah Health Hospice website at http://www.kaweahhealth.org/our-services/hospice/ or call (559) 733-0642.