The only organization providing hospice care in the Lower Keys is closing.
VNA/Hospice of the Florida Keys (VNA stands for Visiting Nurses Association) will close by the end of February, according to a statement from Haven, the Gainesville-based organization that affiliated with the Keys hospice in 2015.
The affiliation was intended to consolidate administrative and other costs that had already put the Key West-based group in “financial distress,” said Patricia Vernon, a spokeswoman for Haven.
“Through the affiliation, the financial stresses continued,” she said. And after Hurricane Irma, which destroyed thousands of housing units in the Keys, “with staffing challenges, they just couldn’t continue on.”
The group is currently caring for 20 hospice patients and 11 home health care patients, she said.
Several other agencies provide home health care in the area, but this was the only hospice provider in the Lower Keys. The others are in Tavernier and Key Largo in the Upper Keys — a journey of at least 90 miles from Key West.
“Our top priorities over these next few weeks are the wellbeing of our patients and families with whom we are working to transition their care to other qualified programs, and our dedicated associates to whom we are offering job opportunities at Haven located in North Florida,” according to a statement from Haven.
“Generous donor gifts that have not yet been expended to serve VNA/HFK patients and families will be returned in the future to the extent funds are available after assets are liquidated and outstanding obligations are settled.”