June 30, 2014

Essex County home nurses program profitable now

ELIZABETHTOWN — In the past four years, the Essex County Public Health Department has erased its deficit and is now making a small profit.

That was the good news that Essex County Public Health Director Linda Beers reported to the County Board of Supervisors recently.

She said that in 2010 the state-certified Home Health Agency that is part of her agency had a $650,000 shortfall, but by 2013 it had been wiped out, and it made $8,000 that year.

That agency provides nursing services to county residents in their homes.

“From 2010 to 2013, we made significant progress,” Beers told lawmakers. “We increased revenue and clients. We got rid of the deficit between 2010 and 2013.”

County Director of Patient Services Serena Nicola said they reduced expenditures — staff through attrition and use of paper records to save money.

“Transitioning to electronic records increased efficiency and accuracy,” Nicola said. “There’s communication and collaboration among the staff (now).”

The agency also improved billing practices, she said.


Beers said the Essex County Home Health Agency had been in existence for 47 years as the only such service in Essex County, but last year other agencies got certified there to serve the growing population of senior citizens.

“Now we have three: us, HCR, (and) Visiting Nurse Service of Northeastern New York in Lake Placid. How is this possible? (Because) the number of people 62 and up is growing. People over the age of 62 are primary Medicare recipients.”

HCR took over the Clinton County Home Health Agency in 2012 and is based in Rochester, while the Visiting Nurse Service has headquarters in Schenectady. Both have local offices.

“People in upstate New York have said they’d rather age in place than in a nursing home,” Beers said. “It’s all about getting access to care. This (home nurse visits) allows people to age in place without going into a facility.”

Essex County Home Health Agency had about 175 clients in a six-month period, Beers said, and is operating at capacity.

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