VNA purchasing Hospice campus next to hospital

PHOTO BY JOSHUA KODIS

The Visiting Nurse Association of the Treasure Coast has entered into an agreement to buy the land under the VNA Hospice House, plus acreage for expansion, for $3.8 million, with a closing expected early in 2024.

For decades, VNA had leased the 14.3-acre parcel – where it built the 12,000-square-foot Hospice House, and which now includes 4.2 acres of tropical meditation gardens, a pond and a memorial – but the Indian River County Hospital District did not enter into an agreement to sell the property to the VNA until this past month.

But with the VNA’s 50-year anniversary approaching in 2025, the agency wanted a more permanent footprint and decided to exercise its right to purchase the property on 37th Avenue adjacent to Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital.

VNA and VNA Hospice founder Ann Marie McCrystal said the purchase will allow VNA to better plan for the area’s growth and needs, and to enhance services provided to patients and caregivers. “This shows Indian River County that VNA is going to be around for the next 50 years,” McCrystal said when asked about the pending transaction.

Hospital District Chair Marybeth Cunningham described the sale as an extension of the long and successful partnership between the VNA and the district.

“VNA continues to have a very, very important place in this community, and I think it will going into the future,” Cunningham said. The Hospital District helps fund numerous VNA programs, including the popular mobile clinic, which moves around the county providing primary care services to adults and children, plus health screenings and preventative health education.

The VNA’s appraiser valued the land at $3.4 million, while the Hospital District’s appraiser came back with a value of $4.125 million, but when the two appraisal methods were analyzed, the boards determined that the VNA’s appraiser had taken the property’s deed restrictions into account, where the Hospital District’s appraiser had valued the property as if it had no deed restrictions.

The parties compromised and VNA accepted a counteroffer from the Hospital District for $3.8 million. Neither board wanted to spend money obtaining two more appraisals – money that could be better spent providing services to Indian River County residents.

When the district trustees agreed to the sale price on the land, VNA Board Chairman Bill Stengel said, “I would be grossly remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the trustees’ great efforts with respect to the land sale that’s been proposed and approved by the district. VNA understands that this is a resource of the community. Owned, leased or otherwise, it’s an asset for the citizens, the taxpayers, the patients. Our board of 32 people understands that,” Stengel said.

Founded in 1975, VNA of the Treasure Coast provides in-home skilled nursing care and coordination with doctors, social workers and other healthcare practitioners to help patients recover from injuries, surgeries and illnesses.

During their last report to the Hospital District, VNA staff said its nurses have drastically reduced hospital re-admissions and Emergency Department visits among the clients they serve.

Two of the challenges facing the agency right now are finding enough Registered Nurses to fill open positions, and getting patients admitted into Hospice care at home or in the VNA Hospice House earlier in a terminal illness.

Hospice benefits can extend for up to six months, but the average number of days that Indian River County patients benefit from Hospice care once admitted is only 59 days.

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