Yates County may sell in-home nursing care program

Gwen Chamberlain

If you are someone who needs in-home health care in Yates County, those services are provided by a Yates County employee, but that may not be the case in the future.

The Yates County Legislature has agreed spend up to $3,500 to hire  McCarthy & Conlon LLP, a health care consultant, to begin the process of selling the county’s certified home health agency (CHHA) services to a private organization.

In the first phase of the process the company  will review the request for proposals that has been prepared.

The entire process could take a year, according to County Administrator Sarah Purdy.

Future phases could include analyzing the responses and then managing the sale and transition.

Purdy says Yates County is one of the few counties that is still the sole provider of home health services within the county, and she says the governor’s budget is pushing health care services out of the public domain. “He clearly wants private organizations to run nursing homes and home health care agencies,” she said.

While there has been a statewide moratorium on issuing licenses to certified home health care agencies, that could change soon, according to rumblings Purdy and others are hearing. If new certificates are issued, a private agency could begin to offer services and in Yates County, and could “cherry-pick” Yates County customers, choosing to provide services to people who will pay their own costs, whose insurance might pay higher fees, or those whose care is less costly.

Schuyler County?Administrator Timothy O’Hearn says lawmakers there are finishing up the paperwork to complete the $500,000 sale of its program to Lifetime Care, a division of Genesee Region Home Health Care Association.

O’Hearn says 500 unduplicated patients per year were receiving services in Schuyler County, but progress was hampered by difficulty recruiting and retaining workers. He says the legislators there were concerned about ensuring quality care, and with the sale to Lifetime Care, they feel the county has found a win-win situation for everyone because patients are now receiving enhanced care.

Yates County Public Health Director Deb Minor says the Yates County program offers skilled nursing services such as wound care, IV care, assessment of cardiac status, medication status and education, diagnosis education, and coordination of other services such as physical, occupational, speech and medical social services.

In 2010, 632 Yates County residents received services. In addition, around 90 people received personal care aid.

Earlier this year, Yates County officials began taking a closer look at its CHHA through a report from McCarthy & Conlon, who studied the last five full years of services.

Purdy, who calls the situation “gut-wrenching,” says no decision has been made yet to sell the service. “A lot depends on the quality of the responses, and how they plan to address the patients and staff,” she explained.

But she says when faced with the possibility of a property tax cap, the county legislature must look at all non-mandated programs.