The Clinton County Legislature has heard from a Rochester-based company interested in purchasing the county’s home healthcare service license and taking over its services.
The legislature’s finance committee met with representatives from HCR Home Care, Aug. 16, to learn more about the company, which submitted a bid to purchase the county’s license.
Mark A. Maxim, HCR’s president and administrator, and Elizabeth Zicari, the company’s vice president of clinical services, gave a formal presentation to the legislators Tuesday afternoon, discussing how HCR uses “research-based quality improvement” and continuing education to “provide the highest standard of care possible.”
“Patient care is a very sensitive and very personal issue,” said Zicari. “Our patients in any community are our family members, our friends, our neighbors — people that we care about. They’re not a number.”
Each of the legislators in attendance posed questions to Maxim and Zicari, citing concerns by those currently employed through the county’s home health-care program as to whether or not they would have a job if HCR were to purchase the county’s license.
“Our goal would be to certainly hire any of the nurses that want to stay and work for the Clinton County patients through HCR,” said Zicari. “We would be very interested in talking with them and in maintaining their relationships with the patients they’ve cared for and not to interrupt that for the patients.”
Legislator Robert W. Butler, R-Area 6, further questioned if staff other than nurses, would be needed if a deal with HCR went through. Maxim responded that in every county HCR currently handles home healthcare, the organization has hired every clinical person who has wanted to continue employment under the HCR administration.
“We expect that to be the case here,” he said.
However, the need for clerical staff would not be as great, Maxim said, noting centralizing administrative and clerical work from its main offices in Rochester is one way the company can reduce expenses and be more profitable where the county has suffered financially to the tune of approximately $2 million a year in recent years. Maxim stated there would be a potential need for “three to four” clerical staff members. According to County Administrator Michael E. Zurlo, the county currently employees approximately 13 clerical staff members for the home healthcare program.
“So, that may be an area where not everybody will have a job,” said Maxim.
Maxim and Zicari also stated HCR could make the home healthcare program profitable by spreading its costs over a wider base of patients. The county’s program currently cares for less than 300 patients. HCR currently sees 2,000 patients daily over its coverage area, said Maxim, which includes Monroe, Orleans, Genesee, Cortland and Schoharie counties. This fall, HCR will begin offering services in Delaware, Wayne and Madison counties, adding even more patients into the fold, he said.
Legislator John W. Gallagher, D-Area 9, questioned if the company’s resources would be stretched too thin as it adds more territories to its coverage area. Zicari responded that would not be the case.
“We feel very confident by the time the whole process goes through that we’ve got our people lined up so we can provide the support needed,” said Zicari.
“What makes you think you can take this bull by the horns and make it work so that you can make a profit on this over the next several years where we couldn’t,” asked Butler.
Both Maxim and Zicari reiterated that by putting less administrative duties on nurses providing care, it makes them more productive and able to provide better care to more patients.
“I think our nursing retention and satisfaction rates probably speaks to the comfort level with our method and our productivity expectations,” said Zicari. “We intend to be successful here. We don’t enter into these decisions lightly.”
When questioned what would happen if HCR couldn’t maintain a viable bottom line, Maxim replied candidly.
“If we went out of business, there wouldn’t be an agency in the state that wasn’t out of business,” said Maxim. “We think we’re high quality and very efficient. And, if we can’t make it, nobody can.”
The county has made no decision at this point whether or not to sell its home health-care service, noted Zurlo. Legislators are currently in the process of obtaining more information from HCR before a decision could be made. The amount of time a transition would take if the county decides to go with HCR would be about one year, said Maxim.