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Groundbreaking Set for June 22 for Construction of the Jack Byrne Center for Palliative and Hospice Care

An artist's illustration of the Jack Byrne Center for Palliative and Hospice Care
An artist's illustration of the Jack Byrne Center for Palliative and Hospice Care. (Illustration by MorrisSwitzer-Environments for Health Architecture)

Formal groundbreaking will take place Wednesday, June 22, starting construction of the Jack Byrne Center for Palliative and Hospice Care, an advanced clinical facility to provide integrated, patient- and family-centered care for patients with life-limiting illness and complex medical needs and to strengthen palliative and hospice care region-wide.

In March, Dartmouth-Hitchcock (D-H) Trustees approved construction of the Jack Byrne Center, pending successful fundraising efforts to cover much of the construction costs. Site preparation has been underway since May, and fundraising for both construction of the Center and accompanying programming has gained strong momentum and continues. Plans call for the Center to open in late 2017.

EDITORS NOTE: The groundbreaking for the Jack Byrne Center is a private event, but media are invited to attend. The event will be held at 5 pm on Wednesday, June 22, on the construction site on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center campus in Lebanon. Reporters interested in covering the groundbreaking should contact Rick Adams at (603) 653-1910 by Tuesday, June 21.

The 12-bed Jack Byrne Center, to be built on the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center campus in Lebanon, will combine interdisciplinary patient- and family-centered care with unprecedented opportunities for teaching, training, and research for health care providers. A $10 million gift from the Jack & Dorothy Byrne Foundation in 2014 covers almost half of the $22 million cost of construction of the Center, intended to fill a growing need for specialized care for seriously ill people who are enrolled in hospice but whose pain or other medical needs are difficult to manage elsewhere. Many of these patients currently end up admitted to acute care hospitals. The Jack Byrne Center will create an environment that is both warm and comforting, and clinically prepared to meet the caregiving needs of loved ones at the end of life.

"Too many people are still dying in ways they would not want, often in intensive care units, connected to machines,” said D-H CEO and President Dr. James N. Weinstein. “Through the efforts of our dedicated team, we have built an internationally respected palliative care program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and thanks to the enduring commitment of the Byrne Foundation and our other supporters, the Jack Byrne Center will enable us to better address the physical comfort, emotional and spiritual well-being, and inherent dignity of each patient and his or her family."

Designed to be a community resource, the program within the Jack Byrne Center will be developed and administered by Visiting Nurse and Hospice of Vermont and New Hampshire (VNH), working in collaboration with providers from Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Section of Palliative Medicine. The Center staff will work with hospice providers from across northern New England to smooth transitions of care for patients and families.

"As the leading licensed hospice provider with the skills, reputation and regional focus, this partnership allows us to continue to provide ongoing excellent care for our communities," noted Jeanne McLaughlin, VNH President and Chief Executive Officer

Regional providers and family caregivers will also be encouraged to draw on the Jack Byrne Center for education and training in palliative and hospice care, with a goal of increasing their capacity to care for the majority of hospice patients who wish to spend the end of their lives in their own homes.

"The Jack Byrne Center is a flagship project for Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Palliative Medicine program," notes Dr. Kathryn B. Kirkland, Interim Chief of D-H's Section of Palliative Medicine.  “It will bring immediate benefits by providing a specific kind of care currently unavailable in the Upper Valley to hospice patients with high-acuity symptoms that cannot be managed at home. Providing sophisticated care in a homelike setting improves the hospice patient’s experience, and optimizes utilization of the region’s acute and tertiary care beds.” 

The Byrnes' support for palliative care at D-H began in the mid-1990s with a gift that funded the creation of the Regional Palliative Care Initiative, led by the Norris Cotton Cancer Center. This led to the creation of a formal Palliative Care Program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, which was strengthened by the Byrnes’ ongoing support over the next decade.

In 2007, the Byrne Foundation generously funded the Dorothy and John J. Byrne, Jr., Distinguished Chair in Palliative Medicine at the Geisel School of Medicine. Dr. Ira Byock, then Director of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Palliative Care Program, was the first to hold this distinguished chair. At the same time, the Foundation gave $2 million to support the ongoing work and expansion of D-H’s Palliative Care Program.

The common misperception of palliative care and hospice is that it means that patients are giving up. At Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the Center will offer patients and families a multi-level system of support as the end of life approaches.

“People think it's about dying well – but it's about living well in the context of the reality that you don't have long to live,” notes Dr. Ellen A. Bassett, Director of Hospice Planning with D-H’s Palliative Care team. “Our care is fully interdisciplinary; it's not just nursing care and medical care, but social work, spiritual care, healing arts, creative arts, pet therapy, and music therapy.”

"The real power of the Jack Byrne Center, and the framework within which the development of the building, its programming, and the affiliation take place, is the creation of a sustainable system of care for patients with life-limiting illness across the continuum of care,” notes Weinstein. “It will improve the experience of the people we serve with life-limiting illness, transform care locally and regionally, and contribute to advances in care and care systems nationally and worldwide."

Read more about or make a gift in support of the Jack Byrne Center for Palliative and Hospice Care.