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Cooper Green Hospital

Balm of Gilead logo.Project Overview

Balm of Gilead Center at Cooper Green Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, is aptly named after the healing balm of biblical stories. This comprehensive palliative care program included a homey, 10-bed inpatient facility for dying patients who had no one to care for them at home. The Center also expanded the Jefferson County Health Department's home-based hospice program, enabling indigent patients to receive inpatient or home-based care as needed, regardless of their ability to pay. Seventy percent of the project’s patients were African American.

Former Cooper Green Medical Center Director, F. Amos Bailey, M.D., noted that in addition to creating the inpatient care facility and expanding home-based hospice care, the Balm of Gilead Center "developed the systems, services and institutional and community values that truly provide excellence in end-of-life care for a medically underserved population and their families." Under this project, comprehensive, team-based end-of-life care - also known as palliative care - was integrated into the hospital's acute care system.

The project utilized a team approach that included doctors, nurses, church groups and volunteers. Church groups and other community organizations received training in providing supportive care to terminally ill patients and their families. The project instituted a thorough training program for palliative care staff, volunteer teams and doctors in training at Cooper Green Hospital. This collaborative effort among Jefferson County's public hospital, Cooper Green Hospital and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine also developed a new curriculum on end-of-life medicine. Medical students attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine were introduced to palliative care through a curriculum that teaches students to focus on comfort, issues of life completion and closure and quality of life for dying patients and their families.

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After the Grant

Cooper Green Hospital sustained this project as a formal program after the grant ended, and some aspects of the program were replicated by the VA system.

Contact Information

Principal Investigator:
Dianne Vandiver
Administrator, Patient Services
Cooper Green Hospital
Hematology/Oncology Services
1515 6th Avenue South
Birmingham, AL 35233
Phone: (205) 930-3596
Fax: (205) 930-3497

Project Founder:
F. Amos Bailey, M.D.
Director, Palliative Care (111)
Birmingham VA Medical Center
700 South 19th Street
Birmingham, AL 35233
Phone: (205) 933-8101 X5355/6676
Fax: (205) 558-4754
Email: [email protected]

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Promoting Excellence in End-of-Life Care was a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation dedicated to long-term changes in health care institutions to substantially improve care for dying people and their families.