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Lakeland hospice under threat does ‘right thing,’ continues to pay employees and provide services to patients

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Compassion can be a powerful force, especially when it is a company doing the right thing for employees and clients.

Despite threats of law enforcement action and regulatory sanctions, a Lakeland Hospice ordered to close by the state over a “disputed clerical error” is still taking care of its personnel and terminally ill patients.

Florida Agency for Health Care Administration has accused the Compassionate Care Hospice on Drane Field Road of not submitting license renewal paperwork by a February deadline. With that, the company’s license is technically expired, according to the state, prompting a letter to CCH on March 9 ordering the hospice facility to cease operations immediately.

CCH officials said they sent the proper paperwork to the AHCA in a timely manner, which the agency says they never received.

The facility, which serves Polk, Highlands and Hardee counties, has asked the state for permission to continue serving terminally ill patients throughout the appeal process. Last week, the AHCA denied a hearing for CCH attorneys to present what they say is compelling evidence the company submitted the proper license renewal.

Despite an uncertain future, CCH remains committed to its employees, patients and families suffering through some of the most stressful situations possible.

For example, the company today sent out payroll checks totaling $250,000 for the 150 employees in the Central Florida region. This comes even as there are no assurances CCH will receive reimbursement, something dictated by state law for licensed hospice providers.

CCH Executive Robert Aberman said, for the time being, the company will continue to pay employees and provide care to terminally ill patients

“It’s the right thing to do,” he said in an email.

Nevertheless, CCH representatives still wonder how long the company can sustain employees until the state can resolve the matter.

“A portion of these costs would be reimbursed/recovered,” Aberman added. “However, in this case we are working under the assumption that this is not reimbursable unless AHCA addresses the license issue.”

The AHCA issued a statement saying, “It is disappointing the company allowed their license to expire. AHCA has offered any needed direction to pursue a change to the current law.”

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at [email protected] and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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