Senate Bill 177, authored by state Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Simi Valley, was passed unanimously by the Senate Health Committee.

Santa Barbara County has only one licensed hospice facility, and the waiting list for the facility averages eight to 12 patients, as there is no other inpatient facility in Santa Barbara County and only a small facility in neighboring Ventura County. Senate Bill 177 would increase the maximum number of patient beds allowed under hospice facility regulations.

“Right now, we operate six beds at Serenity House, and the new facility will be licensed for 12 beds when it opens,” said Lynda Tanner, president and CEO of Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care, the sponsor of SB 177. “SB 177 will allow VNHC to expand to 18 beds in 2012, meeting the increasing needs of our communities.”

“The extra beds this bill provides will be critical in delivering additional hospice care in the Santa Barbara region,” Strickland said. “Health care is of the utmost importance, so I’m happy to author this legislation to expand hospice care on the Central Coast.”

SB 177 will be heard next in the Senate Appropriations Committee.

— Sarah Walsh represents Sen. Tony Strickland, who represents California Senate District 19.