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NIH eyeing Hospice building for clinic expansion

March 4, 2013

This is the former home of Hospice of The Owens Valley which merged and moved in with Pioneer Home Health Care this year. Hospice and Northern Inyo Hospital are currently in negotiations over the disposition of this facility, which could become part of the Rural Health Clinic. Photo by Marilyn Blake Philip

The recent, overall merger of Pioneer Home Health Care and Hospice of the Owens Valley has gone smoothly but there are still a few loose ends.
Right now, the biggest still-to-do on the list concerns an ongoing negotiation over the disposition of Hospice’s former home at 155 Pioneer Ln. in Bishop.
NIH, which owns the building and property, is eyeing the facility for a future Rural Health Clinic expansion. However, since Hospice raised all the money to pay for the building’s construction, the hospital district is trying to find a way to compensate Hospice.
According to Director of Community Development, Marketing and Grant Writing Angie Aukee, Hospice attorney Tom Hardy and NIH District Legal Counsel Douglas Buchanan are currently negotiating the terms for a transaction that is not a sale or a reimbursement.
Hospice Director Caitlin Higginbotham explained that in the late 90s, then NIH CEO Herm Spencer worked with Hospice to establish an on-campus facility. NIH paid landscaping and parking lot costs while Hospice raised the money for building construction costs, she said. John Halfen, the current hospital administrator, said, “We didn’t put a nickel into the building” itself.
However, since the structure was built on NIH real estate, it belongs to the hospital. “Anything affixed to the property, by the foundation in this case,” becomes part of that property, explained Buchanan at the Jan. 16 NIH board meeting.
Higginbotham said that everybody was working toward the formation of a hospice. “No one was worrying about leases and agreements back then.” Nonetheless, Halfen has suggested that, by way of some measure of reimbursement, NIH would assist Hospice with “a donation to help us on our way since we’re losing our building,” she said.
Hospice Medical Director and board member Dr. Tom Boo M.D. , said that Halfen “will ask the board to pay the fair value of the building (based on its currently appraised value) but the details just need to be worked out.”
Halfen said he has “coveted that building for two years,” with a Rural Health Clinic expansion in mindsince “most, if not all, of primary care will be done by Rural Health Clinic within the next four to five years.”
So far, Hospice has been given no deadline to vacate 155 Pioneer Ln., but NIH “would probably prefer sooner than later,” Higginbotham said. Pioneer Administrator Pat West said that she is hoping for an end-of-March vacation of the NIH facility so that Hospice and Pioneer are completely housed under one roof.
By all accounts of those most closely involved with this transaction, it is proceeding amicably.
“Close relationships between NIH, Hospice and Pioneer will be maintained through the transition,” Higginbotham said.
West said that according to Elizabeth Hogue, the attorney for Pioneer, who is working with Buchanan and Hardy on a legal agreement between the three entities, Hogue has never worked with two lawyers who so clearly have the mutual best interests of their clients in mind.
“Negotiations between the attorneys are ongoing,” Halfen said, and ultimately, “we’re all working towards an agreement that is in the best interest of the residents we serve.”

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