Elected officials, hospital executives and staff celebrated the beginning of renovations to Jamaica Hospital’s hospice care unit last Thursday. The $1.2 million project will be named after the family of longtime board member and donor Joseph A. Ferrara.
“It is such an honor for my family to be part of this great thing,” Ferrara said. “I feel blessed that we’re able to do a small part.”
According to hospital CEO Bruce Flanz, the hospice unit provides comfort to patients as they begin winding down their lives.
“Especially during that time in people’s lives, we try to be especially sensitive to their needs,” Flanz said. “The whole purpose of renovating that unit is to create a home-like environment.”
The updated facility will have extra-large private patient rooms, a family lounge equipped with a kitchen, family meeting rooms and other amenities.
Though the remodeling has been in the works for a while, he said, the hospital has been fundraising through its capital campaign over the last year. Flanz said although the hospital is “substantially near” their goal, they still need more financial support.
Jamaica Hospital opened its ten-bed hospice care unit, the first in Queens, back in 2010. Now, only Jamaica and its sister hospital in Flushing offer in-house hospice care in the borough.
“It’s always important to try to get care as close to where the patients and family reside,” Flanz said. “Family members are encouraged to visit as often as they want, they can come 24 hours a day. If it’s close to where they live, it just makes it that much easier.”
Dr. Alan Roth, the hospital’s chief of palliative care medicine, describe hospice not as a place, but rather as a philosophy of care.
“It’s about the love of life, and celebrating life,” he said. “It’s about honoring and respecting and comforting everyone always. Our goal is to allow our patients at the end of life to celebrate and reflect on where they’ve come, where they’ve been and, for spiritual beliefs, those that are going somewhere else.”
Edward Schraegar, a former director of respiratory services at Jamaica Hospital, recently had two of his close relatives in the hospice care unit. The first was his aunt, a widow with no children, who at 93 years old was suffering from terminal sarcoma of colon. She suffered chronic pain and chronic diarrhea as a result of her illnesses.
“We didn’t want her to suffer, and we didn’t want her to die alone,” Schraegar said. “That’s what she was scared of.”
Schraegar said his aunt received “phenomenal care” from the nurses, attendants and aides, all of whom were attentive and caring.
Just before her death, after she had spent a week at the unit, she told him that she “made the right decision coming here.”
Not too long after, Schraegar’s mother-in-law, who was living in Florida at the time, also required hospice services. He said their family looked at several hospice options in Florida, but none of them were adequate.
He decided to fly her to Jamaica Hospital, where she also spent the rest of her life in hospice care.
“I was fortunate enough to have a place like Jamaica to bring them. Without Jamaica, I honestly don’t know what we would’ve done,” Schraegar said. “It warms my heart to see this program is going to survive.”
Joseph A. Ferrara, the namesake for the new unit, said his wife spent her last days in Jamaica’s hospice unit. He said he met many wonderful and caring people who looked after his late spouse.
“Then you look at the place where they’re performing their miracles, and you say they’re an all-star team playing on a minor-league field,” Ferrara said. “Now we have a major-league field coming for them, and I’m sure they’ll be doing wonderful things.”