City Board, D-H Meet on Palliative Care Center
Lebanon — Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s revised plans for an 18-bed palliative care center elicited few questions and generally positive, if subdued, comments from members of the city Planning Board on Monday night.
David Stiger, a D-H representative, noted that the medical system had chosen “a different site for the project on property we own within the medical center zone.”
It has been 19 months since D-H announced it had received a $10 million gift to fund development of what was initially cast as a 12-bed, $20.5 million facility “for seriously ill people whose pain or other medical needs are difficult to manage at home or in a nursing home.”
A previous plan slated the facility for a 10.7-acre parcel owned by Dartmouth College south of the main D-H campus. Building on that site would have required rezoning and sparked questions about spot zoning, worrisome precedents and effects on natural areas.
“I appreciate the way you took the feedback,” said Suzanne Prentiss, a city council member who is liaison to the board. The new plan “doesn’t require readjustment to the current zoning,” she noted.
Ken Morley, vice chairman of the board, noted the completeness and attractiveness of the materials presented by D-H, then added this observation: “Unfortunately, I suppose there will be quite a few hearses going along here.”
He asked if there would be a way to separate incoming and outgoing traffic.
The plan allows for two different entries, Stiger said.
Board members wrestled for more than 20 minutes with how best to do a “site walk” on the wooded land just west of Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center where D-H now would like to build a 36,000-square-foot facility and 50 parking spaces.
With the days shortening, the end of daylight savings time about to move sunset even earlier and a track of record of poor attendance at weekend site walks, board members opted to schedule their own individual site walks. D-H officials promised to provide a detailed map with walking trails and parking spots highlighted.
Monday’s presentation was on the agenda as a “request for a conceptual review” of the proposal. That’s described in the board’s site plan review regulations as “an informal discussion …, to be conducted in general terms, of the basic concept of the proposed development.” The aim is to assess a plan’s compatibility with the existing zoning ordinance, master plan and plans for roads, utilities, services and environmental, cultural and historical preservation.
Stiger said D-H planned to submit a formal application in November or December. D-H officials have said they hope to open the new center some time in 2017.
Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s existing palliative care program comprises “an interdisciplinary team made up of palliative medicine specialist physicians and nurse practitioners, along with a social worker, spiritual care provider, complementary therapists and community volunteers,” according to the D-H website.
Palliative care focuses on alleviating the symptoms of patients with serious diseases, as well as the side effects of medications and other treatments. Palliative care differs from hospice in that palliative care is not limited to patients whose doctors have concluded that they have less than six months to live, nor does it require that recipients stop receiving curative treatments.
In June, D-H announced plans for Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire, a nonprofit organization based in White River Junction, to join the D-H system and participate in “joint development” of the new center.
Rick Jurgens can be reached at email@example.com or 603-727-3229.