For homebound residents, is Gasconade County about to become a home health care ‘desert’?

HADH board pulls back from pulling plug on hospital’s Home Health Care

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 11/23/22

HERMANN — For the half-dozen staffers of Hermann Area District Hospital’s Home Health Care program, it’s a question of when and not if they will be pulled from under the …

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For homebound residents, is Gasconade County about to become a home health care ‘desert’?

HADH board pulls back from pulling plug on hospital’s Home Health Care

Posted

HERMANN — For the half-dozen staffers of Hermann Area District Hospital’s Home Health Care program, it’s a question of when and not if they will be pulled from under the facility’s umbrella of services.

They came close to being cut loose Monday night as the board appeared to become more resolute against continuing a money-losing program. Financial estimates discussed during the monthly Board of Directors session placed the Home Health Care program’s costs for the year at about $240,000 — just under 10 percent of the hospital’s entire projected loss of $2.7 million for the year.

“Either we move forward with it or we shut it down,” said Board President Dale Ridder, who would moments later offer a motion to severe the Home Home Care program from the HADH list of services on Jan. 1. Director Trig Renderer second the motion, throwing the matter open for more discussion.

But the move to cut the program and the ongoing expense of providing the service to homebound residents scattered throughout the sparsely populated county was set aside — at least for a short while — when Ridder and Renderer withdrew the motion and second while Mercy Washington administrators tried to find a solution to keeping the Home Health Care employees serving the patients in this area.

Mercy Washington Chief Executive Officer Eric Eoloff, attending the HADH board session, said he would have to talk with the Mercy Home Health Care officials to see if the HADH employees could be added to the Mercy roster. That could take a few days, he said.

Four of the five HADH directors attending the Monday night regular monthly session were poised to take action to trim the program, especially after HADH Administrator Dan McKinney and program director Kali Van Booven reported that talks in the past month about taking over the local program with two home health care agencies — one in Jefferson City, the other in St. Louis — didn’t appear likely to happen.

An earlier effort by McKinney to have the Gasconade County Health Department take over the Home Health Care program was declined by the county health agency Board of Trustees, citing an already-crowded list of services being provided by an often short-handed staff.

As for the employees of the Home Health Care department — three registered nurses, one licensed practical nurse, one aide and one physical therapy assistant — HADH officials said there are plenty of positions available within the hospital’s workforce for the department staffers to take — if they wished to take one. But VanBooven, one of the registered nurses who has been spending much time doing paperwork to collect third-party payment for the nursing services being provided, said she doubted that the staffers would do that. She told the board that “most probably would not want to go back to 12-hour shifts.”

With efforts to find a successor for the program, and the uncertainty of Mercy Washington being able to absorb the staffers and provide the services, a former HADH board member voiced concern that the patients relying on the in-home services could find themselves in a precarious position. Karen Volking said she is worried that a home health care “desert” could be created in the county if the hospital cuts loose the program before a successor agency is found, if, indeed, one is found.

VanBooven said the HADH program makes between 15 to 20 home visits each day, with those visits divided among the nurses, the physical therapist and an occupational therapist.

The HADH board in the coming days could schedule a special session to act on the Home Health Care program and hear an update on Eoloff’s efforts to add the department staffers to the program operated by Mercy Washington.

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