Press-Republican

November 20, 2012

Editorial: Proof is in the numbers

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Press-Republican

---- — Clinton County officials made a good decision in privatizing its home-health-care services, and you don’t have to take their word for it. The evidence is in the numbers.

After considerable debate and research — and despite public pleas from workers and people with family members involved — county legislators last year voted to sell the home-health-care service to HCR of Rochester. The company must pay Clinton County $320,000 per year for the license.

The home-health operation had been bleeding money for several years, but it is never easy to rescind a county service. Workers feared job losses and lower pay, and people receiving the service worried that they would lose the compassionate care they had received.

It was an agonizing decision for county lawmakers — and one for which they took a great deal of heat.

Fast forward to this month, as legislators consider their budget for 2013. The $1.7 million savings realized because of the home-health-care sale is a dominant factor in the county being able to offer a tax-levy increase of 1.9 percent, well under the 3.2 percent hike that the state formula would allow. Another factor influencing the $155.9 million budget, which is about $1.8 million lower than this year, is the bulging sales-tax revenues that come mostly courtesy of Canadian shoppers.

If anyone suspects county officials are puffing up the advantages gained by privatizing the home-health service in order to justify their decision, there is solid proof to the contrary from another source: CVPH Medical Center is seeing the impact of the change in its readmission rates.

CVPH President and CEO Stephens Mundy told the Press-Republican Editorial Board that the rates have been “staggeringly good” since HCR took over the service. The hospital is actually being penalized right now for the previously poor readmission rate of 43 percent for Clinton County residents, which is far above the New York state average of 30 percent.

Since HCR took over, Mundy said, the readmission rate for the county has dropped to 23 percent, a testament to the excellent patient care and extended availability provided by HCR staff, a number of whom are former county workers.

Mundy gave this example of how HCR has made a difference: If CVPH released a patient on a Saturday, it used to be that a followup visit from a home-health-care aide would not take place until at least the following Monday because those county employees didn’t work on the weekend. But HCR has nursing staff available on Saturdays to meet with newly released patients, who receive reminders and help with their medication and any other care they need. 

County Administrator Michael Zurlo and the legislators have again done a fine job preparing the budget — and the declining costs and readmission rates prove they made a sound decision on home-health care.