Lakewood Ranch – Empath Hospice, a member of Empath Health, announced it has been granted a license by the Agency for Health Care Administration to begin caring for patients and families in Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties.

This license allows Empath to provide compassionate end-of-life care to people living with advanced illness and their families in these counties. Services are expected to begin in October 2023. For more information, or to request services, call (863) 329-2750 or visit

“Empath Health is thrilled to provide our full life care to those who need it in Polk, Hardee and Highlands counties. The opening of Empath Hospice allows us to touch even more lives and offer expanded access to hospice services,” Empath Health President and CEO Jonathan Fleece said.

Empath Hospice offers several unique services, 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.

“Our world-class clinical team is proud to bring expert, compassionate end-of-life care to the Empath Hospice service area,” Empath Health Chief Hospice Administrative Officer Kerry Hoerner said. “But our services go far beyond medical care. Our integrative treatment, emotional and spiritual care and bereavement services also are assets to the communities we’re honored to serve.”

Empath Hospice is built on the foundation of the Empath Health legacy hospice organizations, Suncoast Hospice and Tidewell Hospice, which have been providing pioneering care in the Tampa Bay and Southwest Florida regions for a combined nearly 90 years. Suncoast Hospice, Pinellas County’s only non-profit hospice, was founded in 1977. Tidewell Hospice, the only non-profit hospice in Sarasota, Manatee, Charlotte and DeSoto counties, was founded in 1980.

Also, Empath Health’s Suncoast Hospice of Hillsborough, a non-profit hospice, has been serving patients in Hillsborough County since December 2021. In May 2023, Hospice of Marion County joined the Empath Health network of care. The non-profit hospice has cared for Marion County patients and families since 1983.

Today, Suncoast Hospice, Tidewell Hospice, Suncoast Hospice of Hillsborough and Hospice of Marion County provide medical treatment, integrative medicine, volunteer support, counseling, caregiver education and advance care planning to nearly 19,000 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.


About Empath Health
Empath Health is one of the country’s largest not-for-profit health systems 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. 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; physician services; and full-service pharmacy and durable medical equipment (DME). Empath Health is honored to have approximately 26,000 people enrolled in our Full Life Care services in north central, west central and southwest Florida. We have nearly 130 combined 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.