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Covenant Care, West Florida Hospital Open New Hospice Care Center

Sandra Averhart
WUWF Public Media

Covenant Care is opening a new inpatient hospice care center at West Florida Hospital. On Thursday, officials from both organizations held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the relocation of the hospital’s existing hospice operation to a newly renovated space featuring numerous upgrades.

“This is where the first ever Covenant Care inpatient hospice unit was born and the area’s first-ever inpatient hospice unit,” said Jeff Mislevy, President and CEO of Covenant Care, as he reflected back to the original third-floor unit at West Florida that opened in 2005, some 14 years ago.

The shared history between the two institutions extends back almost 40 years.

“West Florida Hospital was one of the three local hospitals who got together in 1980, believe or not, and said ‘We need hospice to be delivered as a community non-profit program; we ought not compete over it,’” Mislevy recalled. “So that formed the foundation of Hospice of Northwest Florida, which eventually evolved into Covenant Care here. So, our roots go all the way back.”

“The mission of Covenant and the mission of West Florida truly align around the care and improvement of human life,” said West Florida Healthcare CEO Carlton Ulmer. “And, we see Covenant Hospice as part of that continuum of care, that end of life care for patients.”

The new 11-room unit encompasses just over 7,000 square feet. Humorously noting the improvement over the old “3-North” unit, Ulmer pointed to the first floor location as one of its best features.

“The geography of this unit is absolutely superior,” Ulmer said.

He boasted about being able to enhance the experience for families visiting the hospice unit, without having to navigate the maze of the hospital or to utilize an elevator to get where they’re going.

Additionally, there’s a private courtyard, meditation area, and plenty of community space where families can gather to grieve.

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media
Officials from Covenant Care and West Florida Healthcare cut the ribbon to celebrate the opening of a new Center for Hospice Care at West Florida Hospital.

After a ribbon cutting ceremony, individuals in attendance were encouraged to tour the new facility.  

Project manager Stephanie Garnett, an eight-year employee of Covenant Care, says they started the planning process about 18 months ago, along the way making very conscious decisions about the design.  

“It reflects the coast,” Garnett said. “That’s who we are here on the coast, and so the décor reflects that coastal theme that we tried to replicate.”

The coastal theme has become Covenant’s brand, as it also highlights the décor of the inpatient unit that opened at Sacred Heart Hospital in 2017.

In addition to photos of Pensacola Beach, each room at West Florida features a large mural of local water and beach scenes.

Credit Sandra Averhart / WUWF Public Media
WUWF Public Media
This is one of the semi-private rooms at the upgraded and relocated inpatient care hospice unit at West Florida Hospital.

While there are many similarities between the units, Garnett explained that this new unit has a few enhancements, including the incorporation of a request from the boss to provide more accommodations for those visiting their loved ones.

“To have two or three places to sit just wasn’t ample,” said Garnett of the general lack of space for intimate interaction and engagement. “So, he (Mislevy) asked that we design some bench seating.”

The benches provide a lot of places to sit and are comfortable spots for sleeping when family members want to stay overnight.

In addition to the bench seating, the facility features a number of the subtle improvements, including high tech ones.

“You know all the TVs now have Bluetooth devices where people can stream their photos from their phones,” added Covenant Care President and CEO Jeff Mislevy.

In essence, the wall mounted televisions turn into picture frames and there’s also plenty of spots around the room for photos.

“So, it’s attention to detail,” Mislevy said. “But, in this case details really matter.”

It matters, he says, because this is the last home, the last experience the people in their care will have.

The Center for Hospice Care at West Florida Hospital is scheduled to open for patients on July 1. At the public unveiling Wind Creek Hospitality presented a $25,000 check, for a total of $50,000 in support of Covenant Care’s My Wish initiative.

Sandra Averhart has been News Director at WUWF since 1996. Her first job in broadcasting was with (then) Pensacola radio station WOWW107-FM, where she worked 11 years. Sandra, who is a native of Pensacola, earned her B.S. in Communication from Florida State University.