Restore Obici House as hospice

Published 9:47 pm Monday, July 6, 2009

The restoration of the Obici House has been on hold for years due to lack of funding. Mr. Obici’s closest family member, Jolyne Dalzell, has stated that the Obici Foundation could support restoration if the building were to be used for health care, as per the Foundation’s charter.

Obviously, a medical office or outpatient surgery center would be totally out of character for the setting, which overlooks the famed 18th hole of a golf course on the Nansemond River. There is, however, one much-needed medical use for which it would be perfect — a hospice.

A hospice would not cast a shadow of gloom on that beautiful 18th hole. Both my parents spent their final weeks at the nation’s first residential hospice in Connecticut. I was amazed at the spirit of joy and tranquility they found there.

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I also have cared for many hospice and other terminally ill patients as a physician doing mostly geriatrics in recent years.

The closest residential Hospice is in Williamsburg (which, by the way, looks exactly like a house — without the grandeur of Mr. Obici’s, of course). Therefore, patients in our area who no longer can be managed at home are admitted to any available nursing home bed.

While the overall care is good, there inevitably will be variations in the level of skill and comfort of nurses and aides not experienced in hospice care. Most of all, the institutional nature of these facilities is in stark contrast to the unique blend of home and spiritual retreat found in a hospice.

You occasionally hear of an elderly golfer who fulfills his wish of dying on the golf course, hopefully after a good shot. If Obici House were to become a hospice, far more golfers could at least have somewhere close they could go for their last days.

For the non-golfers, perhaps Mr. Obici’s magnificent gardens could be restored. I think that would make him very proud.

Richard Whalen, M.D.

Suffolk