WILSON’S LOCAL PRINT AND DIGITAL COMMUNITY INSTITUTION SINCE 1896

County on pace to sell home health agency

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Officials are one step closer to the sale of Wilson County’s nearly 50-year-old home health agency.

On May 30, commissioners voted unanimously to draft a contract for sale to In-Home Partnership, a joint venture between Duke LifePoint and LHC, which is based in Lafayette, Louisiana.

Since then, LHC and Wilson County have been working on the contract, said Ron Hunt, assistant county manager.

Wilson Medical Center is a part of Duke LifePoint Healthcare following a 2014 merger where Duke LifePoint acquired an 80 percent stake in the hospital.

LHC offered to purchase the agency for $2 million.

Commissioners will hold a public hearing regarding the proposal to adopt a resolution for the agency’s sale at 7 p.m. Monday, Aug. 6 during their regular meeting.

Hunt said a public notice regarding the hearing will be published 10 days prior to the meeting.

TIMELINE OF DECISION

Before the decision was made to sell the agency, commissioners delayed their vote on whether to move forward. They agreed then they needed more time and had lingering questions that needed to be answered before making a decision.

In the interim, they received many phone calls, emails and letters regarding the sale of the home health agency, which is operated as a division of the health department.

A grassroots movement formed with nearly 600 patients, families and community members signing a petition opposing the agency’s sale.

LHC, which is under contract for the sale, was one of only two companies that offered bids to purchase the agency now serving hundreds of patients. The other firm was HealthView Capital LLC, a privately held company based in Rocky Mount. That company also offered $2 million, but commissioners moved forward with LHC.

Many residents posed concerns about privatizing the agency. Some spoke out at meetings, saying they feared patients’ needs wouldn’t be adequately met, especially those who are uninsured and underinsured.

MONEY LOSSES

Since fiscal year 2012-13, the home health agency has lost roughly $1.7 million in revenue, according to county officials. Revenues continue to decline due to cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates and a freeze in Medicaid rates, county officials have said. County Health Director Teresa Ellen has said officials have spent the past five years working hard along with staff to make cuts in an effort to sustain the home health agency.

Ellen has said there aren’t many counties still operating public home health agencies. There are three county home health agencies up for sale now, including the public provider in Nash County, officials have noted.

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