HEALTH

Bergen County facility positioned as national model for hospice care

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

With poetry and passion, Khan, who plays George Washington in the AMC series “Washington’s Spies,” praised Villa Marie Claire for caring for his mother-in-law as her life was coming to an end.

“So, it’s what I call the greatest airport on the planet, because it’s a place for families to land to their reality of what’s coming. It’s like a long runway. You land, you come and a place for the patient to fly off in to the sky,” said Khan.

Villa Marie Claire is considered New Jersey’s only residential hospice — the place where those with days, sometimes just hours, left to live stay.

“It’s not about death with dignity, I mean that’s part of it, but it’s about living those last days. It’s about life,” according to Holy Name Medical Center President and CEO Michael Maron.

Holy Name Medical Center owns Villa Marie. Its CEO says, in America right now, hospitals provide expensive end-of-life care at rates way above the cost of hospice care and New Jersey tops the list for such wasteful Medicare spending.

“In a time the most expensive last six months and futile, in a time when we’re all concerned about the rising, escalation cost of health care, most of it is done in the last six months of life. And, most of it is futile,” said Maron.

But now, New Jersey, after a contentious budget cycle and with the governor’s approval, has given $5 million to Holy Name for Villa Marie to create a model for end-of-life care.

“This could have been derailed a thousand ways, and it should have been, because that’s what normally happens in politics. And when you have less and less money, these are the things that get cut. But, I will tell you, Paul is very, very persuasive,” said Port Authority Chairman and former Republican state senator, Kevin O’Toole.

“I never thought, all the years I’ve been in the Legislature, that I would spend so many weeks and months talking about end-of-life care because I had to educate and inform folks what this facility was all about, because it’s sort of a subject and topic that a lot of us don’t want to have a discussion about,” explained State Sen. Paul Sarlo who represents parts of Bergen and Passaic counties.

“This is a game changer for us,” said Maron.

At Villa Marie, families can stay for free, cook their own meals, children can swim and play, and even after a loved one has passed, families can get 13 months of free therapy.

The hope is that Villa Marie is the model created for end-of-life care here will go beyond Bergen County, beyond New Jersey and set the standard for America and beyond.

The hospice’s medical director, Dr. Charles Vialotti, says he knows the agony of the end. He lost his wife to cancer.

“So, this wonderful grant is such an opportunity for us to expand our scope, expand our vision, get our message out even further, provide to an even broader base of people and hopefully get people here sooner so that we can do more for them, so the patient can benefit from being here as much as their families can,” he said.

“This place is the future. It is kindness. It is love,” said Kahn.

TOPIC: HEALTH