Local hospice receives top accreditation

By Katie Demeria

Blue Ridge Hospice in Winchester recently received accreditation from The Joint Commission, a recognition that reflects the high quality services the hospice organization offers the community, according to President and CEO Ernie Carnevale.

The Joint Commision is the oldest nonprofit health care organization in the nation. Blue Ridge Hospice, the only nonprofit hospice in the Shenandoah Valley, has had accreditation for the past 15 years, Carnevale said.

The Joint Commission updates its reviews every three years. Surveyors arrive unannounced at the medical organization and spend a week reviewing patient charts, records, visiting staff and reviewing overall components of health care quality.

Hospices, Carnevale said, do not usually participate in the review, which is entirely voluntary. Blue Ridge Hospice’s involvement sets it apart as an institution devoted to providing quality care to the community, he added.

The hospice serves individuals throughout the valley, including those in Shenandoah and Warren counties. As a nonprofit organization, Carnevale said the organization does not turn anyone away.

The organization serves those who have been diagnosed with a terminal illness, usually those with less than six months to live.

“We provide a team of health care professionals, including nurses, nurse assistants, music therapists, and volunteers as well, who provide care to these folks in their homes, in the hospitals, or the nursing home,” Carnevale said.

Blue Ridge Hospice also has a location in Winchester, which supports eight inpatient beds for 24-hour care.

The Joint Commission surveyor was so impressed by the hospice, he added, that she asked them to submit some of their policies as “Best Practices” for all hospices across the country.

In continuation with their effort to serve the entire community, Carnevale said Blue Ridge Hospice offers many workshops through their bereavement programs.

“We do a lot of stuff around the holidays especially, because holidays can be tough when you’ve lost somebody,” he said. “When there is a tragic accident in a local school, for example, we’ll be sent to those schools to help, as well.”

“We serve the community where there’s a need,” he added.

The surveyor was very impressed with the hospice’s bereavement program, Carnevale said. She called it “a very robust program.”

“She was very complimentary,” Carnevale continued. “She was very surprised at the high level of quality services that we were able to maintain and provide to patients and families. She just had wonderful things to say about the care we provide.”

When it was founded 33 years ago, Carnevale said, the hospice cared for about 20 patients a year, but now, Carnevale said, the organization cares for 1,000 patients and their family members every year. It has continued to be a nonprofit organization since its inception.

“The nonprofit status is just who we are, that’s our mission,” he said. “We’ll continue to be part of the community like all other nonprofit organizations.”

The Joint Commission’s accreditation works largely as a reminder, Carnevale added, that the organization is on the right track.

“We’re very proud,” he said. “It’s nice to have somebody come in who doesn’t know us to validate that we’re doing a good job.”

Contact staff writer Katie Demeria at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kdemeria@nvdaily.com