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Hospice names building after longtime leader

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Our Hospice of South Central Indiana has named its Columbus facility in honor of its longtime president, Sandy Carmichael, who is retiring.

Carmichael, who has served with Our Hospice of South Central Indiana for more than 33 years, was a driving force in its founding and has worked to popularize hospice care both in Indiana and nationwide.

The agency’s inpatient center, a

$4.9 million, 44,000-square-foot facility, opened east of Columbus Regional Hospital in 2004 for up to 14 terminally ill patients.

It now bears the name Sandy Carmichael Hospice Center.

Officials unveiled the name to Carmichael, family, friends and hospice staff Wednesday during a reception.

It’s the “greatest honor that I have or will ever receive,” Carmichael said.

She said she felt especially honored because the center’s new name was announced in the presence of two of her sisters, a daughter, three grandchildren and her 94-year-old father, Nick Hutton.

“They are just overwhelmed,” she said.

Carmichael, 64, will retire Dec. 31. The board has chosen Laura Hurt as her successor. Hurt is a longtime Columbus Regional Hospital and community leader, who most recently served as director of volunteer services and diversity strategy at CRH.

Hospice board President Tom Dowd said it was an easy decision for the board to honor Carmichael for her enthusiasm and perseverance.

“We can’t say enough good things about Sandy’s hard work, her dedication to the community over the years and her helping start hospice,” Dowd said.

Without Carmichael’s involvement and passion, hospice would not be what it is today, Dowd said.

Carmichael said she was appreciative of the patients, families, employees and community, all of whom believed in the agency’s mission and provided strong support.

That support required lots of legwork and telephone calls in the local agency’s early years. Thirty-five years ago, the idea of providing care for the terminally ill in their homes was nothing short of revolutionary. The prevailing attitude at the time: The sick belong in the hospital.

Born in Albany, Carmichael moved to Columbus at a young age. At 21, she joined the local hospital as a staff nurse. In the late 1970s, she was one of the first two people hired for the hospice organization. She said she spent a lot of the early days and money to handwrite letters to people asking if they wanted to know more about hospice.

She got involved at the state and national levels, helping to get the state to approve Medicaid reimbursements for hospice in 1992. Through frequent trips to Washington, Carmichael helped persuade the federal government to follow suit with Medicare reimbursements in 1997.

Together with the Columbus Regional Hospital Foundation, Our Hospice of South Central Indiana built its inpatient center, which has 14 individual rooms with French doors that allow for patient beds to be moved onto the patio. The serenity garden has hosted birthday parties and even weddings to allow terminally ill patients to participate in a ceremony they otherwise would have had to miss.

The facility also has a children’s playroom, a rose garden, a library, a chapel with a vaulted ceiling, a family dining room and two family rooms with TV sets and small kitchens. Patient rooms have a refrigerator and a sleeper sofa for family members.

Carmichael said the journey was challenging, humbling and rewarding.

“None of us would have ever thought it would become what it is today,” she said.

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