If you want a miracle that is better than any drug, work to make life better.
--Chris Brownlie hospice foundation member
With those words, the AIDS Hospice Foundation celebrated the start of construction on Los Angeles County's first publicly funded facility to care for AIDS patients in their final days before death.
The 25-bed hospice will be built in an unused staff dormitory at Barlow Hospital in Elysian Park.
The respiratory care hospital and former tuberculosis sanitarium has leased the building to the AIDS Hospice Foundation for $1 a year as its first major step in a plan to develop a comprehensive program to treat acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
Renovation of the building is scheduled to begin soon and will be completed in July or August, said foundation President Michael Weinstein.
The City of West Hollywood has become the third public agency contributing to the project. The West Hollywood City Council voted to give the foundation $22,500 to pay 15% of the annual costs for three patients, Weinstein said.
The council also voted to give Barlow Hospital $50,000 to recondition two idle cottages on the hospital property. Weinstein said those would be used for residential care of ambulatory AIDS patients.
The hospice's $400,000-to-$500,000 construction and $1.2-million annual operating costs will be financed with a package of public and private contributions and patients' insurance benefits.
Los Angeles County has committed $400,000 to the project from a $2-million AIDS hospice package approved by the Board of Supervisors.
The City of Los Angeles will contribute $200,000 toward the renovation.
Gene La Pietra, owner of Circus Disco in Hollywood, donated $200,000 to the project.
La Pietra joined a small group of foundation board members and public officials in celebrating the success of the project, which moved from concept to construction in less than six months.
The professionally staffed, 24-hour facility will be modeled after the Coming Home hospice in San Francisco. It is expected to open before state legislation passes providing for the licensing of such facilities.
Weinstein said a memorandum of understanding will be provided by state officials to sanction its operation until the legislation is adopted.