Hospice & Palliative Care of Martha’s Vineyard has hired Cathy Stauffer Wozniak as its new executive director.
Wozniak found the position on the Island through her network of connections in the field. It ended up being a perfect fit, since Wozniak and her husband were looking to relocate from Tampa to be closer to five of their children, who are all living up north. Escaping Florida’s summer heat was a plus, too.
“The Island’s lovely; who wouldn’t want to live on the Island?” Wozniak said.
Wozniak’s career in hospice spans more than 30 years. Before joining Hospice MV, Wozniak was a healthcare consultant in Tampa, the executive director for the Northeast Georgia Health System, senior vice president for Compassionate Care Hospice and Home Care in Southampton, N.J., and regional executive director for Compassionate Care Hospice in Wilmington, Del., among other leadership positions in the healthcare field.
While earning her master’s in public health, some of Wozniak’s studies were in the aging, death, and dying field, studies that hit close to home.
“I was interested in those topics because I experienced some significant family losses as a child,” she said. “I was really drawn to the concept of supporting those during end-of-life, and helping them adjust to a new reality that they had a shorter time to live.”
Wozniak’s philosophy is that hospice is as important as the event of birth, and should be treated that way.
Wozniak comes to Hospice MV at a time of transition for the organization, which is seeking Medicare certification to expand services and help better fulfill its mission and vision to provide care for the Island community.
For close to 40 years, Hospice MV has been one of a few hospices around the country that operate solely on community funding. This allowed the organization flexibility on who can or cannot be admitted to hospice. But over the years, the organization was redirecting some patients due to some patients being faced with specific medical needs and insurance statuses — sometimes faced with unaffordable co-pays, if admitted at Hospice MV. Such costs were often associated with certain pharmacy bills or durable medical equipment.
While Medicare hospice was a great partner, having to recommend some patients seek their services with another organization felt in conflict with their mission.
With the switch to Medicare, Hospice MV will continue offering free palliative care and bereavement counseling — a service offered to anyone, whether in Hospice or not — free of charge. Medicare certification will help cover the cost of certain services. Certification will add the ability to offer certain drugs for patients, updated medical equipment and supplies, and could potentially add new services, such as acupuncture, music, and art therapy. The organization will also add new staff, particularly around compliance.
Even with the switch to Medicare, donors are still a vital part of the organization. Medicare doesn’t cover bereavement counseling, an electronic medical record (EMR) system, IT support, ongoing staff education, and special memorial services. Wozniak said Hospice MV will be looking at bereavement services for children and special community education programs.
“We’re still going to need donor support. We’re going to continue to provide bereavement services for anyone on Island, and also palliative care services at no cost,” Wozniak said.
She commended Hospice MV’s board for making the decision to make the change. While Hospice MV could always take care of people with Medicare, some people would choose to go somewhere else.
“We will be able to access people now that have Medicare that have decided to go to another hospice off-Island because they’re Medicare-certified,” Wozniak said.
While working for a top-notch organization and being closer to her children were big factors in her decision, the cherry on top is that the Vineyard suits Wozniak’s hobbies. She’s a big swimmer, likes to hike, and enjoys being out in nature. Wozniak and her husband plan to move to their new Vineyard Haven home in August. She’ll begin her new chapter at Hospice MV in September.
“The hospice is really a jewel in the community because of the wonderful staff and the wonderful donors,” she said. “With Medicare certification coming, it’s going to be an even more enhanced model of care.”