Willson Hospice House receives National Caritas Award

A file shot from the opening of the Willson Hospice House / Jana Barnello

Willson Hospice House, a new 34,000 square-foot LEED Silver facility, has been named The Caritas Project's 2011 Place to Flourish.

The CARITAS Project is a global enterprise committed to the creation of transformational environments that enhance human health. Architect and visionary Wayne Ruga developed The CARITAS Project as the next phase of his personal quest to improve human health. During the first three decades of this quest, his focus was on the built environment as the means to advance the delivery of healthcare, and consequently, human health.

Presented by its founder, Dr. Wayne Ruga, on Sept. 20 at the Healthcare Facilities Symposium in Chicago, the annual distinction recognizes one project nationally which best produces measurable, systemic and sustainable improvement in the health and well-being of individuals and communities.

"This award serves as validation that we accomplished what we sought out to do, and that is to create an environment that allows our patients, who are nearing the end of their lives, to commune with nature while still integrating with the community," said Joel Wernick, President/CEO of Phoebe Putney Health System, which operates Willson Hospice House. "The community is encouraged to make Willson Hospice House a destination location, where they can walk the nature trails, sit in the gardens, or birdwatch. They will find that it's a place that promotes life and healing."

Willson Hospice House's intentional inclusion of so many stakeholders â" patients, families, staff, community members, donors, volunteers, and visitors â" aligns with The Caritas Project's emphasis on the extension and invigoration of healthcare's traditional relationships. By creating a project, which strengthens the potentially rich links between individual users, its provider organization, and its neighborhood, Willson Hospice embodies Caritas's new paradigm of generative space, and has earned its prestigious 2011 "Place to Flourish" Award.

One judge said, "It has excellent engagement with its local community, of which it seeks to be an integral part. People using the service therefore retain their social and emotional links with their everyday lives as far as possible. It has active plans to maintain and enhance the relationship with local community groups. It also brings elements of the community into the hospice environment, improving their own understanding of palliative care and the needs of people with advanced illness in their community."

Opened in June 2010, Willson Hospice houses administrative space for 50 travelling homecare staff, as well as 18 new inpatient beds.

The 39,000-square-foot Hospice House is the home for Albany Community Hospice, an organization that provides palliative care to patients in Southwest Georgia with limited life expectancy.

Hospice focuses on end-of-life as a normal part of the process of living and provides special emphasis on maintaining quality of remaining life for terminal patients and their families. The facility at 320 Foundation Lane provides patients and their families a peaceful, home-like setting where personal dignity and quality of life are emphasized.

Willson Hospice was modeled from its inception to protect and take full advantage of its natural setting. A one-mile walking trail loops the site perimeter, connecting the front courtyard, family gardens, and outdoor chapel with boardwalks and a viewing platform at the bird sanctuary. Project development was restricted to only 14 acres, leaving 93.5% of the site unspoiled.

In recognition of its environmental stewardship, including a Natural Resource Management Plan detailing measures to prevent erosion and stormwater pollution and to conserve water, Audubon International in 2010 named Willson a Silver Signature Sanctuary, the first and only healthcare facility to earn that designation.

The inpatient facility, built by Brasfield & Gorrie, LLC, targeted Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) certification to protect and enhance the construction site's natural resources from beginning of construction throughout the lifetime of the property.

The award-winning Willson Hospice House, designed by
Perkins + Will, will be featured in Medical Construction & Design's upcoming November/ December edition.