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Beth Ahabah Voices: Ken Olshansky

September 26, 2017

by Ken Olshansky

In 2008 just before I was ready to stop my surgical practice, I met with Peter Bernard, the then CEO of the Bon Secours Virginia Hospital System. I mentioned that despite closing my practice, I was still interested in working part time and would love to work for Bon Secours where I had practiced for 33 years. Immediately he said that he would love for me to come work for Bon Secours and the first project he wanted me to do was help build Richmond’s first free standing hospice house. Obviously I was very excited. I was very familiar with hospice but had very little experience with a hospice house. After a lot of research and help from our VP of hospice, we formed a steering committee, hired a consulting firm to do feasibility studies and organized a fundraising campaign led by the Bon Secours Foundation. There was a great deal of excitement but financial times were tight and fundraising was a slog. In the meantime, with the VP of Construction and Bon Secours’ Architect, I flew down to Charlotte, NC and Greenville, SC to visit two top notch free standing hospice houses to get ideas for staffing and construction design. Soon thereafter, a six and a half acre plot of land on Southside Richmond was donated and we were off and running. Although we were still a bit behind in fundraising, we proceeded with additional trips to do site visits at additional hospice houses with our hospice staff. With that knowledge, architectural plans were drawn up and with input by the staff and additional modifications, construction was begun about three and a half years ago. The Bon Secours Community Hospice House (CHH) has been open now almost two years. It is a beautiful 16 bed facility, fully staffed with nurses and physicians serving our entire metropolitan community for end of life needs. The CHH has a homelike setting nestled on a wooded property. All of the rooms open to the outside with gardens and fountains. Most people are treated by hospice in their homes but when that is no longer possible, the hospice house offers a serene setting, avoiding hospitalizations. It was a thrill to see this project come to fruition.

As a result of my involvement with hospice, it became clear to me that as a society, we were reluctant to discuss end of life issues, particularly hospice. Many families feel guilty when the issue of hospice care arises, feeling it means “giving up”. Quite the contrary. Hospice is a gift!! Statistics show that the earlier one avails themselves of hospice, not only does their chance of living longer go up but their quality of life improves. There is a beautiful quote by Dame/Dr. Cicely Saunders, the founder of the hospice movement: “You matter because you are you and you matter to the end of your life. We will do all we can to help you die peacefully, but also live until you die”. Realizing that so many people haven’t discussed their end of life wishes, I began working with the Richmond Academy of Medicine. With their excellent leadership, a new subsidiary organization was formed called Honoring Choices Virginia (HCV). HCV promotes people having those important end of life “conversations” with their families and hopefully execute an advance care directive(living will). To that end on January 11, 2018, Beth Ahahah and Honoring Choices Virginia will present a joint panel discussion on end of life issues. There will be a question and answer period and HCV facilitators will be available to schedule people to come to their offices to have that important conversation. Save the date and more information will follow. If anyone would like a tour of the hospice house or has any questions, feel free to contact me at kolshansky@yahoo.cm or 804-690-1635.

 

Editor’s Note:

“Voices” is a series written by and about the members of Beth Ahabah. If you would like to submit an article about a friend or family member at Beth Ahabah, or your own adventures, avocations or interesting career, please contact Lori Allen in the Temple office at l.allen@bethahabah.org.

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