West Orange getting hospice facility

Health Central Hospital is about to embark on a project that will bring hospice care to West Orange County.

Retired nurse Judy Williams, of Gotha, is planning fundraisers for the new 10-bed inpatient hospice unit coming to Health Central’s future rehabilitation center.
Retired nurse Judy Williams, of Gotha, is planning fundraisers for the new 10-bed inpatient hospice unit coming to Health Central’s future rehabilitation center.
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Judy Williams thought she was getting out of healthcare three years ago when she retired from her registered nursing career after 31 years. She quickly grew bored, however, and once again, she found herself in the position to assist patients.

The Gotha resident is chairman of the Friends of Cornerstone Hospice, which is on a mission to raise funds for enhanced hospice services at an inpatient unit at Health Central Hospital in Ocoee.

The hospital plans to build a 100-bed rehabilitation center on its campus; 10 of those beds will be managed by Cornerstone Hospice and Palliative Care, a not-for-profit community organization that provides comfort and care to Central Florida families experiencing life-limiting illnesses.

Williams spent most of her career at South Lake Hospital in Clermont. In her last seven years, she was a case manager in the intensive-care unit and emergency room, and that’s how she became interested in hospice care.

“I found people places to go, whether it's a nursing home, home with hospice, rehab,” Williams said. “In the ER, it was more finding something immediately, but in ICU it was speaking with families, determining how to find a place for them. Most people work for a living and can't take them home with them.”

Mike Conley Hospice House, a Cornerstone Hospice facility in Clermont, frequently took patients when she called.

Because she grew up in Clermont, she frequently took care of people she knew, and that’s what got her interested in hospice. She also cared for a friend in a nursing home before she died.

“I often worked with the hospice team and was always impressed by the compassion and high-quality care they provide to patients and their families,” she said.

Williams recently joined the West Orange Health Alliance board, and she and another member, Lynn Walker Wright, began discussing the lack of a free-standing hospice facility in West Orange County.

“Lynn said, 'Why don't we have one?' I said, “Let's start one,” Williams said.

About three weeks later, Michael Mueller, CFO of the hospital, shared with the board a project that was in the works — a hospice unit on the campus.

The two women are working together to raise funds. Walker Wright is chair of the Capital Committee, and Williams is chairing the Friends of Cornerstone Hospice, which organizes social events to monetarily support the project.

“I hope to grow this community organization to help raise awareness about hospice care and the peace of mind it provides to patients and families facing a life-limiting illness,” Williams said.

According to Walker Wright, the first floor of the five-story facility will have 10 private patient rooms decorated with homelike furnishings. Family members and loved ones will be able to spend nights with the patient utilizing pullout beds, in-room showers and refrigerators.

About $1.7 million of the $3.6 million needed has been raised.

“Our board is dedicated and invested in bringing this facility to our West Orange residents, as it is desperately needed,” Walker Wright said.

The closest facilities like this are either the Mike Conley House in Clermont or the Cornerstone Hospice House at Orlando Health Downtown Orlando.

“I have a special fondness for hospice, having experienced firsthand the services provided for my family upon the loss of my parents,” Walker Wright said. “I have also seen the care provided to one of my closest friends who passed at the age of only 43.”

The West Orange Healthcare District has been a donor and supporter of this endeavor. The West Orange Health Alliance has provided an additional substantial donation for the project as well.

A groundbreaking is planned in the next two months, and fundraisers will be ongoing. A gala is being organized for the beginning of 2018.

“I'm just a retired nurse who wanted to work with hospice and help people,” Williams said. “This is a whole new endeavor for Cornerstone, for Health Central, for me. … It's exciting. It gives me something to do and it makes me feel good. Nurses are nurses, we're always looking for something to do.”

For information or to donate, call (866) 742-6655 or visit cornerstonehospice.org.


Contact Amy Quesinberry at [email protected].


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