CLEARWATER – Empath Health announced today its affiliate organization Empath Hospice has been granted initial approval by the Agency for Health Care Administration to deliver hospice care services in Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties.

Empath Hospice is built on the foundation of Suncoast Hospice and Tidewell Hospice, which have been providing pioneering care in the Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida regions for a combined 85 years.

Empath Health CEO Rafael J. Sciullo said, “We are so honored to have the opportunity to serve the residents of Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties and their families with the expert, compassionate care we’ve been providing across our region.”

Empath Hospice brings several unique services to Hardee, Highlands and Polk county residents, including an Empath Mobile Access to Care unit for outreach activities in rural and low-income areas and a partnership with Heartland Rural Health Network to help community health workers reach patients with chronic, advanced or terminal illness. Empath Hospice has committed to other community partnerships that will offer low-cost internet, telehealth options and aid with transportation to underserved areas.

In 2020, Suncoast Hospice received AHCA approval to provide hospice services in Hillsborough County. Suncoast Hospice of Hillsborough received licensure to serve patients and family in December 2021.

Suncoast Hospice is Pinellas County’s only non-profit hospice, was the first hospice in the Tampa Bay area and one of the first non-profit hospices in the country. In 1977, a group of like-minded volunteers came together determined to provide compassionate, quality end-of-life care so no one would die alone or in pain.

Tidewell Hospice, the only non-profit hospice in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties, began serving patients and families in 1980. It started as a volunteer movement in Sarasota County before expanding its home-centered, comprehensive system of end-of-life and palliative care for people living with advanced illness and their families.

Today, Suncoast Hospice and Tidewell Hospice provide medical treatment, integrative medicine, volunteer support, counseling, caregiver education and advance care planning to more than 18,000 patients and their families each day. They offer specialized services for veterans, pediatric patients, heart failure patients and have teams whose focus is expanding access for Hispanic, African-American and Jewish communities.

The merger between Empath Health and Stratum Health System, Tidewell’s parent company, early in 2021 created the nation’s largest non-profit hospice and home health company.

“It is the goal of Empath Health to continually look for ways to provide our life-changing care to more people who need it. Empath Hospice delivering care in Hardee, Highlands and Polk counties allows us to touch more lives and offer residents and their families expanded access to hospice services,” said Jonathan Fleece, President of Empath Health.



Empath Health is the country’s largest not-for-profit health system delivering non-acute care and services through its skilled, medical and holistic programs to individuals with chronic, advanced and terminal illnesses and those experiencing grief. We were created in 2021 through the merger of two leading nonprofit, integrated networks of care: Empath Health, serving the Tampa Bay region, and Stratum Health System, serving Southwest Florida. The Empath Health integrated network of care provides expert medical, counseling and support services including hospice; home health; palliative care; grief services; all-inclusive elder care; HIV/STI prevention, services and support; primary care; and physician services. Empath Health serves more than 12,000 people a day, creating a bridge between chronic, advanced and terminal care and providing seamless integration based on individual needs. Collectively, we have nearly 90 years of experience serving individuals during some of their most vulnerable times. Our wide variety of community-based programs reflects our commitment to the preservation of our charitable mission.


Since 1977, Suncoast Hospice has been honored to be Pinellas County’s not-for-profit provider of compassionate hospice care and bereavement support services for patients and families nearing the final stages of life or grieving the deaths of loved ones. As an Empath Health member, we focus on bringing holistic comfort and dignity through our medical and integrative treatment, emotional and spiritual care and palliative and support services. Families and caregivers also are comforted with training, support and healing. Suncoast Hospice is accredited by The Joint Commission.


Tidewell Hospice, a member of Empath Health, is an independent, not-for-profit health provider offering a home-centered, comprehensive system of end-of-life and palliative care for people living with advanced illness and their families. Annually, Tidewell provides care for more than 10,000 patients throughout Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties with hospice houses and offices in Arcadia, Bradenton, Englewood, Lakewood Ranch, Palmetto, Port Charlotte, Sarasota and Venice. As the region’s only not-for-profit hospice, Tidewell relies on donations to provide acclaimed patient and community services. Tidewell is accredited by the Community Health Accreditation Partner (CHAP) with deemed status, signifying excellent care.