Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

Local News

January 25, 2012

Panel backs sale of nursing services to Catholic Health

The Niagara County Legislature’s Administration Committee on Tuesday backed the sale of the county’s home health care program operating certificates to Catholic Health System, by a 6-0 vote.

Administration and the Community Services Committee, which already backed the sale, jointly hosted  a question-and-answer session with representatives of Catholic Health System and VNA, which submitted the second-highest bid for the certificates. The session was per Niagara Falls legislator Dennis Virtuoso’s request, after he suggested legislators ought to be able to question the top two bidders and compare their services and records before voting on the sale.

Catholic Health System offered $2.65 million for the county’s operating certificates for two home health care and long-term home health care programs. VNA offered $2.5 million.

Review by an ad hoc committee found the top three bidders for the certificates — including Niagara Hospice, which later withdrew its offer — “ranged from more than adequate to exceptional,” Lockport Legislator Rick Updegrove said.

In addition to its higher bid for the certificates, county Public Health Director Dan Stapleton said the ad hoc committee preferred Catholic Health because it’s willing to assume the “risks” of operating the county programs while the sale is being approved by the state.

By risk, he meant Catholic Health would service patients in the county programs and accept whatever the patients’ insurance companies approve as payment; it would not look to the county, or the patients, to make up the difference.

The question of selling the certificates to Catholic Health System will go to a vote by the full Legislature on Feb. 7.

The county is aiming to sell off its home health care program certificates — and get out of the business of providing home heath care/nursing services — because the programs are in the red to the tune of about $40,000 per month, Stapleton said.

New York state does not require counties to provide home-nursing services and has cut or eliminated Medicaid reimbursement of the services. The patient base of the county programs has been mostly under- and uninsured and chronically ill residents. Catholic Health and VNA both help patients apply for Medicaid and both also offer “charity care” for the under- and uninsured, their representatives said.

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