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Press Releases

Coney Island Hospital Opens New Palliative Care Unit

Expands Community Access to Specialized Pain Treatment and Chronic Illness/ Symptom Management Services

Nov 17, 2010

Brooklyn, NY

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Coney Island Hospital today announced the opening of a new dedicated 19-bed Pain and Symptom Control Palliative Care Unit. The new unit expands the existing service and delivers unit-based coordinated care to patients with serious advanced disease, life threatening or debilitating illness. The Palliative Care team offers patient and family centered care that focuses on effective management of pain and other distressing symptoms to support the best quality of life for patients and their loved ones.
“The relatively new field of palliative care is proving to be invaluable for patients and families faced with life threatening illness. It starts by providing compassionate, and competent care based on best practices from the onset of serious illness through the end of life and through the grieving process,” said Arthur Wagner, Sr. Vice President SBSI Network. “Palliative Care is not about giving up; it is about empowering patients to take control of their debilitating symptoms and pain so that they can spend time focusing on what matters most to them.”
Highly trained in the philosophy and skills of palliative medicine, the team comprised of: a Palliative Care Medical Director; Internist; specially trained Palliative Care Nurses; Palliative Care Social Workers; Pastoral Care; a Dietician; and specially trained Palliative Care volunteers, prevents and eases suffering.
“The Palliative Care Unit was created with a focus on comfort, compassion, and commitment to helping the patients and their loved ones meet the challenges of serious illness and live each day as fully as possible,” said Dr. Pavel Shulman, Medical Director, Palliative Care Service.
HHC is among the first public safety net systems in the nation to develop Palliative Care services in all of its 11 acute care facilities. Coney Island Hospital was an early leader in recognizing the value of palliative care in the delivery of compassionate care that offers patients, families and the community choices that respect their wishes and honor their dignity and independence in making end of life decisions. More than 5000 families have received Palliative Care consult services at Coney Island Hospital since 2005.
“The journey to this point in our palliative care evolution began with us working with the Institute for Healthcare Improvement collaboratives over a decade ago,” said Donna Leno-Gordon, RN, Director of Behavioral Health Nursing and Palliative Care at Coney Island Hospital. “We have now pioneered a new and exciting Center of Excellence that has transformed our scatter bed model into a dedicated Palliative Care Unit. More importantly, we are now at the forefront of providing best-in-class symptom management and tailored medical care to patients with serious advanced disease.”
The Coney Island Hospital Palliative Care Unit features a family resource room where specially trained clinical staff, volunteers, and clergy all provide support, counseling and education to families and loved ones. The new unit has been re-designed with families in mind and allows a family member to room-in with their loved one. Family members are encouraged to be part of the care team and partner with us in easing the pain and chronic symptoms of their loved one.

Case Studies: Accepting End of Life as a Normal Part of Living, and Family Coping

A woman in her late 70’s was admitted to Coney Island Hospital after having a massive stroke. Her daughter, Sister, and cousin struggled with her deteriorating condition and had trouble facing the idea of her being put on a feeding tube. The Palliative Care team discussed the placement of a feeding tube with the family. As the conversation progressed the daughter of the patient became emotional and explained that all she wanted was for her mother to be at her wedding. The palliative care team came up with a way to make her wish happen. On a Sunday evening, the daughter was able to have her wedding on the Palliative Care Unit. The family and palliative team came together to help the mother get ready. A rabbi performed the ceremony on the unit. The mother was more than thrilled to be able to experience her daughter’s wedding, and grateful to the palliative care staff that made it possible.
A woman in her 50’s diagnosed with ovarian cancer was referred to the Palliative Care Team. She was an undocumented immigrant from Mexico living in the United States with her son. After a conversation with the palliative team regarding the overall prognosis and treatment she decided she wanted to go back to Mexico to live out the remainder of her life. This was a difficult request for the son to accommodate due to their legal status and lack of funds. The palliative team coordinated a dialogue with the Mexican Consulate and arranged a way for her to go back to Mexico. Her son, electing to stay behind and faced with his mother’s departure and imminent death, received grief counseling as the process unfolded. She arrived safely in Mexico and passed away surrounded by her other family members two months later.

Case Studies: Pain and Symptom Management

One patient with chronic illness would frequently come to our Emergency Room. This patient was suffering from non-small cell carcinoma and needed frequent adjustments to the prescribed pain medication when her pain level would increase. The patient was known to the Palliative Care team for approximately two years and would request our team whenever she arrived in the hospital. The patient would always express her gratitude and told staff on numerous occasions “I know that when I come here you’ll make me feel better.” Her pain was well controlled and she was able to return to her daily activities.


Contact: Ian Michaels (HHC) (212) 788-3339