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Hospice center to affiliate with Great Lakes

The Center for Hospice & Palliative Care on Friday announced it will become an affiliate of the Great Lakes Health System of Western New York.

Great Lakes is the entity created to oversee the integration of Kaleida Health and its five hospitals, and Erie County Medical Center.

Under the agreement, the center will be named the Palliative Care Center of Excellence for Great Lakes Health. Its chief medical officer, Dr. Christopher Kerr, will become the palliative care medical director for Great Lakes Health.

Kerr will continue serving as the center's chief medical officer, overseeing clinical care for more than 700 patients a day in homes, hospitals, long-term care facilities and hospice residences in Erie County.

Officials said the center's services will remain available to other hospitals, nursing homes and programs in the area.

"[The center] remains an independent community-based, not-for-profit organization," Flint Besecker, chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The affiliation agreement is aimed at improving access and use of palliative care within Great Lakes and leveraging the large health systems to help the center. Palliative care involves pain and symptom relief for patients with serious illnesses and at the end of life.

Officials said the affiliation will help improve coordination of palliative care across all the Great Lakes hospitals, nursing homes and other services.

Examples include collaboration of physician staff and broadening access to palliative care in Kaleida Health's large home care business, the Visiting Nursing Association of Western New York.