ROCKINGHAM -- Patients in Richmond County and the surrounding area who are facing a serious illness now have an additional resource to help maintain their quality of life.
FirstHealth's new Palliative Care Clinic opened Nov. 26 in Rockingham at 921 South Long Drive and focuses on coordinating care with patients' primary care and specialist providers. The goal is to help patients better understand their illness, manage symptoms and avoid unnecessary hospitalizations.
"We will work together with the patient's treatment team to provide an additional layer of support," says Van Beaux Slaughter, M.D., director of the clinic. "We will coordinate care within the team and focus on maintaining quality of life for the patient."
Slaughter emphasizes the clinic's aim to establish a relationship with patients who have a serious illness early in the process. Palliative care is different from hospice care, Slaughter says, because palliative care patients are still receiving aggressive treatment for their illness.
"When we are able to develop a relationship with a patient in the earlier stages of their disease, we support them as they navigate the challenges that arise with a serious illness," says Slaughter. "We're better able to manage their symptoms and also develop a plan to address their future health care needs. Ideally, palliative care would be involved for months or years during this critical time in the patient's care."
Palliative care can benefit patients with a variety of illnesses, including cancer, heart disease, kidney disease, dementia and others. Slaughter and Robin Lynn, LCSW, palliative care & family services manager with FirstHealth, will staff the clinic, which will be open every other Tuesday. Lynn says the clinic is designed to assist primary care and specialist providers in the quest to serve patients.
"We have a team available around the clock to help patients and their providers with acute needs after regular clinic hours,” adds Lynn.
The Palliative Care Clinic is an important addition to health care in Richmond County according to Slaughter, who is board certified in hospice and palliative care. He has been involved with FirstHealth Hospice & Palliative Care for the past eight years, and recently began to assist with FirstHealth's inpatient palliative care program at Moore Regional Hospital.
"Out of that experience, we began discussing the need for a palliative care clinic in Richmond County," says Slaughter. "We want to ensure we are doing all we can to meet the health care needs in this community, and I believe this clinic is an important part of that effort."
Patients and families, as well as primary care and specialty providers, can contact the Palliative Care Clinic for more information by calling (910) 417-3940.