Press-Republican

October 18, 2013

Essex County short of nurses

By LOHR McKINSTRY
Press-Republican

---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County may hire another full-time visiting nurse while it waits to see if two outside agencies start taking home-health clients in the county.

The County Board of Supervisor Human Services Committee OK’d the hiring this week, 8 to 1, with Supervisor Edward Hatch (D-Willsboro) absent.

The measure gets another vote Monday, Oct. 28, and a final vote at the board’s regular session on Monday, Nov. 4.

Supervisor Randy Preston (I-Wilmington) voted against the hiring, saying the county should wait until the process for the 2014 budget is further along.

‘JUMP IN CASES’

Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers asked for the new position for the Certified Home Health Agency within her department.

“We’ve seen an increase,” she said. “We have an aging population. We’re as lean as we can run.”

A State Department of Health operations audit noted they were at minimum staff, she told supervisors.

“We are responsible to give care to the citizens of Essex County,” Beers said. “I am going to tell you that is troubling to do with our amount of staff.”

She said they have 52 more patients and 730 more visits to date than last year. There were 65 referrals in last 20 days, she said.

“That’a huge number. We have a per-diem nurse starting; she’s going to take one region.”

‘LOSING NURSES’

The board previously approved two per-diem nurses, but they found only one, she said.

Certified Home Health Agency Director of Patient Services Sarina Nicola said they are losing nurses at an alarming rate.

“A couple of nurses have already come forward about the possibility of leaving. I have another per diem considering leaving.”

Beers said two firms from out of the area got certificates of need — which are operating licenses — from the state to start taking home-health patients in Essex County.

PRIVATE AGENCIES

Visiting Nurse Services of Schenectady and Saratoga Counties is based in Schenectady but is opening a Lake Placid office. HCR of Rochester is also planning to start taking patients in Essex County.

One of the other agencies is trying to recruit nurses from them now, County Manager Daniel Palmer said.

The two private firms got certificates of need for five counties, he said.

“You’re going to look at the county that will produce the most revenue. We’re probably the least profitable county.”

‘GENERATE REVENUE’

Palmer said the nurses work on billable hours, so they generate revenue for the county.

“This (new nurse) is a short-term thing. I believe those other two services that were given a certificate of need will eventually compete with us.”

Beers said since the county provides home medical visits, it has an obligation to do it well.

“We can’t leave people in a hospital, in a nursing home, not to be discharged. The state could come in and poll surrounding counties to give the care and charge us.”

Beers said the nurses are getting a lot of overtime now.

“They don’t want to work overtime. They want to go home to their families.”

Email Lohr McKinstry:lmckinstry@pressrepublican.com