Vinton County Health Department to end Home Health AgencyFree Access


(Editor’s Note: This is an official press release from the Vinton County Health Department issued by Health Commissioner Ciara Fox concerning the closure of the Vinton County Home Health (HH) Agency Program. A related story can be found on the front page of today’s edition.)

It is with a heavy heart that the Vinton County Health Department has come to the difficult decision to abolish our Home Health (HH) Agency Program. As with any valued and needed resource our agency provides, the decision to remove this program from the directory of services we offer the community did not come about lightly.

Our Board of Health and leadership team has been evaluating the viability of the HH program for several years. From this diligent monitoring process, several factors were identified that have led to the decline of our HH program. The immediate and most pressing deterrent to the livelihood of the program is a significant staffing crisis. Prior to, during and after the COVID-19 public health emergency, our HH program has experienced immense difficulty in recruiting and retaining nurses to serve this program. Our agency has executed a multitude of approaches to increase our nursing staff personnel for the HH program. These actions include, but are not limited to, tactful job listings in various media mediums, working collaboratively with community partners and agencies to seek out qualified candidates, such as colleges and universities and offering retention bonuses.

Unfortunately, all these tireless efforts have resulted in limited success. In fact, our current HH personnel roster stands with only one remaining full-time HH nurse. To assist in alleviating this challenge, in recent weeks we have utilized all our public health nurses to meet the needs of our deserving patients. Additionally, we have reached out to other agencies, nurses and staffing agencies to obtain permanent and contract skilled nursing personnel; these efforts only led to one individual being able to commit to the contract nursing role for a three-week period.

Furthermore, there are several underlying structural and systematic concerns that have led to the detriment of the HH program. Finances have and continue to be an overarching issue for HH across the nation. As stated, HH financial woes are not unique to Vinton County. In fact, with the closing of our HH agency, there will only be two HH agencies operated within health departments in the state of Ohio.

Since the onset of managed care plans, the number of, the quality of and reimbursement rates of HH services has suffered immensely – so much so, in fact, that too often the services that our HH agency is providing cannot be financially sustained at a reimbursable rate. This leads to our agency not being able to adhere to the industry standard payrate for nurses that reflects a local minimum of $35 an hour, which is a higher rate of pay than any individual on the current VCHD payroll.

With that said, on Tuesday, July 11, during a special Board of Health meeting our Board, with guidance from our administrative team, decided to terminate our HH program. As an agency, we will be providing our patients, contract services and valued employees a 30-day notice prior to the conclusion of the program. As such, the HH program and services will conclude on Friday, Aug. 11. During this transitional phase, we will make all efforts to ensure that our beloved patients are linked to resources that can adhere to the health and social gaps that the closing of our HH program will create. Likewise, we have all intentions of providing our dedicated and appreciated HH staff with the financial and career planning support needed to make this change as seamless as possible.

Again, this is a very strenuous decision, and it is not one our agency and Board of Health wanted to make. However, we are beyond grateful for the 55 years of HH service we have been able to provide to Vinton County, and we will continue to work together as an agency and alongside our partners to address the ever-evolving health needs of our community.

 

Be well,

Ciara Fox, MPH

Health Commissioner

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