story and photo by Traci Chapman, Staff Writer
As Russell-Murray Hospice prepares to commemorate its 30th year in business, those associated with it are celebrating a new home and new levels of care to those who need it most.
“It’s appropriate we are here today, holding our board of directors and annual advisory board meeting, in our new building,” RMH Executive Director – and the organization’s first RN – Vicki Myers said. “It’s peaceful, it’s efficient, it’s just perfect for everything, and if Russell-Murray is here for 30 more years, this building is perfect for us.”
Myers made her remarks during the Nov. 15 annual meeting of the two boards at Russell-Murray’s new home, located at 2001 Park View Drive in El Reno. The new building, recently purchased by the longtime hospice care organization, is more than triple the space of its previous offices, located in historic downtown El Reno, Myers said.
“As we’ve grown, the staff really has had to try to work in a situation that just wasn’t feasible,” she said. “They were just crammed in with each other, and while everyone handled it very well, it just wasn’t working the way we wanted it to.”
That meant when a former medical office building located adjacent to Mercy Hospital El Reno came on the market, the organization jumped at it. The space meant not only plenty of room for a growing staff, but also room to grow and a more prominent location, headquartered not only near the hospital, but also other medical providers. That’s good news for the staff, but also for Russell-Murray’s patients, said Melodie Duff, RN, patient care coordinator. As RMH closes out the year and heads into 2018 – its 30th anniversary – Duff said staff and those associated with its success have a lot to be proud of, including 4,440 patients who have been treated and cared for by the organization’s nurses and caregivers.
“We currently have patients from infants days old to patients over 100,” Duff said. “We serve without care about their ability to pay, and we’re always there for them, no matter what.”
That’s something unique in Oklahoma hospice – and elsewhere – Russell-Murray Clinical Supervisor Missy Ellard said.
“If a patient qualifies and desires hospice care, we do not turn patients away based on their reimbursement status,” she said. “Many hospices, even not for profit hospices, have a ‘quota’ of non-reimbursable patients and will decline patients if they don’t have a payer source – RMH has never done that.”
That assistance totaled about $400,000 last year, Administrator Christina Ketter said. With $3.8 million in revenues and a $2.6 million payroll, Russell-Murray saw a jump in helping those who could not afford it.
“It might be younger people who lost their job and didn’t have insurance and, of course, the seniors who might not have access to Medicare or something like that,” Ketter said. “To me, our charity care, the way we look at our patients and how we treatment them shows what kind of an organization, what kind of people we are.” Russell-Murray’s approach has worked – from its roots as a small El Reno hospice care provider to an organization with offices also located in Kingfisher, Weatherford and Oklahoma City. In October, those sites combined served 118 patients through the work of 25 full-time RNs and LPNs, as well as several per diem PRN nurses, across RMH’s four offices.
“We serve approximately 75-mile radius surrounding each of the four offices,” Myers said. Even before the move, Russell-Murray was working to expand its services, not only to patients, but also their families. In March, the organization celebrated the opening of the Virginia E. Olds Resource Library, coordinated originally by Carol Russell Davis and Evan Davis and Vicky Joyner. When RMH began looking at moving, Carol Davis undertook the transfer of the library’s books to the new site, while Sue Pennington-Unsell is director of bereavement.
Named for retired University of Oklahoma School of Social Work professor and longtime Russell-Murray counselor Virginia Olds, the library is unique among hospice organizations, Myers said – and is something that can help not only patients and their families, but also nurses who deal daily with end-of-life care and the emotional toll it can take.
“We wanted to accumulate information related to social issues involved in bereavement, emotional and psychological resources, coping with these kinds of illnesses and more,” Myers said. “It’s important to remember that the patient isn’t the only person who suffers through an end-of-life illness – it’s incredibly difficult and stressful for their family, their friends and their caregivers.”
Those caregivers are the backbone of Russell-Murray’s nearly 30-year success, and they make those who work with them proud every day, Duff said.
“I can’t tell you how many thank you cards and calls we get, talking about how our staff treats their patients, and particularly those who can’t afford it,” she said. “We hear all the time that our nurses never judge and are always there to do everything they possibly can do – and that’s an accomplishment in itself.”