Hospice of North Iowa (HNI) began providing patient-family care in September 1982.
In November 1987, the HNI board of directors and staff engaged in a strategic planning process. One of the stated goals that emerged was “research feasibility of developing a hospice inpatient facility, either within an existing facility or a free-standing unit.”
At about the same time, Mason City resident Charles Hogan contributed to HNI $100,000 for the stated purpose of establishing a hospice inpatient facility. The gift included funding for feasibility studies. Because of a family experience In Minnesota, Hogan believed that North Iowa would benefit from a hospice unit.
Thus began a long and deliberative process. The long-range planning committee, with assistance from the staff, addressed numerous issues and assigned tasks. For example, a physician’s survey was conducted, projection of facility use was studied and the pros and cons of various locations were explored. In addition, staff made site visits to existing hospice facilities in other parts of the country.
During the summer and fall of 1989, final feasibility studies were completed. These included a five-year financial projection and a study of the organization’s ability to be successful in conducting a community capital campaign.
The results were positive and the board of directors officially approved the project in November 1989.
A site selection committee devoted many months to selecting a location. Criteria included housing the inpatient unit as well as the Mason City home care staff. In addition, the administrative staff for the entire organization was also to be located on the property.
The unanimous selection was a historic home located at 232 Second St. S.E. in Mason City, built in 1874 and listed on the architectural register. It originally stood across the street on the current public library site and was moved to the present site in 1914. The house served for a time as headquarters for the Mason City American Red Cross chapter and has long been associated with the MacNider family, from whom HNI purchased the property.
A capital campaign, “A Journey Home,” was launched in June of 1990 and eventually raised more than $1 million to renovate the existing structures and build the hospice inpatient unit.
Once again the Elizabeth Muse-Norris Charitable Trust provided a major gift, thus leading to the name, the Muse-Norris Hospice Inpatient Unit.
The permanence and beauty of the Hospice of North Iowa Center is tangible evidence of the support, sharing and caring which characterize the individuals, businesses and organizations who joined to make the dream a reality.
Randy Cram of Bergland and Cram Architects was project architect for the center. Randy brought not only his professional expertise but also his personal commitment. His father had been served by a hospice program, giving Randy a sensitivity to the needs of the families as he created a truly homelike atmosphere while maintaining the architectural integrity of the historic home.
Groundbreaking took place in November 1991. This would become the first freestanding hospice inpatient unit in Iowa. Once again, HNI was breaking new ground. Special legislation was pursued, introduced and passed that would create a defined area in the Iowa Code to allow freestanding hospice inpatient units. The Department of Inspections and Appeals requested all proposed policies and procedures be submitted for prior approval.
In April of 1991, the administrative staff moved from its 12th Street office to the new location in order to supervise the renovation and construction. Recognizing the ever-increasing financial complexity of the organization, Greg Lauer was hired in May as the director of finance.
In the fall of 1991, Mary Meier, R.N., was hired as the coordinator of the inpatient unit. Her responsibility was to formulate policies, oversee the furnishing of the unit, develop employee training and hire staff, several of whom still remain.
In March 1992, the home care clinical staff moved from the 12th Street location to the hospice center.
On June 1, 1992, the first patient was admitted to the Muse-Norris Hospice Inpatient Unit. A vision dreamed five years earlier became a reality.
The Muse-Norris Hospice Inpatient Unit contains six beds. The unit provides special care for patients and families with specific needs on a short-term basis, including admission for pain and symptom management and respite care for the caregivers.
In addition, for those who are unable to remain at home during the final days of life, the unit provides an atmosphere for a comfortable and dignified death.
Since the center opened, many letters from families have been received. They are all glowing in their praise for the expertise of the staff and volunteers for the warmth of the compassionate care ... for the homey environment where all are made welcome, including pets.
Recently a family member stated, “This is like a palace and all are treated like kings and queens!”