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Lower Cape Fear Hospice facing hard times

READ MORE: Lower Cape Fear Hospice facing hard times
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The Lower Cape Fear Hospice serves patients in the last stages of their life, but the group is facing some hard times. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid has cut $1.2 million in payments over three years for Lower Cape Fear Hospice. That is forcing the organization to scale back its operation while maintaining its services. “Once you experience what these people have to give, you become an advocate like I am,” said Brenda McDonald, whose family benefited from hospice. Brenda's mother died from emphysema while receiving care from Lower Cape Fear Hospice nearly a decade ago. McDonald said she received help herself after her mother died. “They gave me the tools to use to get through those first holidays to make it a lot easier for me.” But Lower Cape Fear Hospice is facing tough financial times after a federal program cut more than $2 billion worth of funding nationwide, meaning more than a million dollars over three years gone from the budget here. Lower Cape Fear Hospice President and CEO, Laurie Bystrom said, “I think it will continue to get worse if something is not done nationally.” She said while the budget is shrinking, demand for hospice care is growing. “We keep growing as a population. The 65 and over group, the baby boomers are hitting the Medicare age, so they need to constantly think of ways to continue to have that,” added Bystrom. Because of the cuts, the organization is being forced to scale back its operational expenses, while maintaining services. The company will cut some advertising, outside training for staff will be conducted in-house, and more negotiations with suppliers for a better price on medicines. The Medicare payment cuts are disappointing news for Brenda McDonald. “It saddens me first of all, and it makes me want to get the community involved more to support hospice and not to forget hospice when they're doing they're charitable donations,” she said. One way people can donate is the through the Festival Trees Celebration at the Forestry Museum in Whiteville. It starts Tuesday and runs through Sunday. All of the proceeds benefit the hospice.

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