Pleas made to keep Home Health and Hospice under local control

Published 10:57 am Sunday, April 25, 2021

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Impassioned pleas commanded attention at the April 19 Dare County Board of Commissioners meeting. The commissioners are considering a possible sale of the county’s accredited Home Health and Hospice program.

The commissioners have selected BrightSpring, one of four possible purchasers, to pursue talks with. Comments at the Monday night meeting came from 11 women and two men.

Comments to the commissioners included: “you’re contemplating throwing away one of the most compassionate services….Stop this idea. Allocate funds to hospice.”

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“This is our work family.”

“We’re here to help and serve. Please listen to your employees.”

“Keep it under local control.”

Courtney Gallop led off the comments, reporting that BrightSpring does not have hospice operations in North Carolina and no operations in coastal North Carolina.

Gallop raised the issue of BrightSpring’s charges. She called them “significantly inflated.”

She criticized the complex multi-layers required to access fee waivers.

Ann Maratellos stated that the three other purchase competitors had received an email from Gary R. Massey, a consultant working on the sale. The email arrived prior to the Monday night hearing. Maratellos read the following sentence from the email: “We wanted to let you know that Dare County has selected another organization for the purchase of their HH and Hospice program.”

The Coastland Times has independently verified that an email with that sentence was sent to at least one of the interested parties.

Maratellos charged that the commissioners made a decision prior to the public hearing.

Dare commissioners kept silent, as is customary.

At the meeting’s end, county manager Robert L. Outten responded to a question from commissioner Ervin Bateman about the Massey email. Outten said no vote and no decision has been made. He maintained the county did not know enough to make a decision and that the county had selected BrightSpring to talk to.

“Other services are losing money,” said Charlie Parker from Kill Devil Hills. His spouse was a hospice nurse for three decades and he’s still remembered as her husband.

Charlie Myers opened his statement saying he thinks the commissioners care about the county’s employees. “Has anyone asked the employees?”

Myers, from Avon, did some tax calculation. His bill for Avon beach nourishment will be $170 per year. To cover the Dare Home Health and Hospice deficit, he estimated a low of $2.58 per year to a high of $12.65 per year.

Myers said taxes should reflect priorities of the community. He advocated “keep Home Health and Hospice local.”

Amanda Myers started her comments with “I love what I do.” She explained some of what goes on in the health care world. Dare County Home Health and Hospice does not turn anyone away. Other providers in the area send the cases with high cost related to reimbursement to Dare County. The action is called “dumping.”

Only one full time person does billing. It was stated the Dare agency does not have professional medical code person. The agency currently has two vacancies for registered nurses.

To fix the agency, Myers recommended increasing nursing salaries, changing management, listening to employees for specifics, finding office support and hiring a coder to maximize insurance reimbursement.

Joanna Walmsley is an occupational therapist with the Dare agency. She detailed her quest for affordable housing, which she found in Stumpy Point.

Alfreda Shelton is the lead aide for Dare Home Health and Hospice. She says “patients actually become a part of our family.” She thinks issues have been swept under the table and issues detailed during exit interviews are not addressed. She concluded her remarks by reading a prayer she wrote for her team.

Pamela Hay from Southern Shores still receives thank yous. She retired in 2020 after 20 years of service. She said Dare County was a unique situation and gave two examples. Dare County’s agency receives vacationing hospice patients who want to return to the Outer Banks, or visit for the first time. “We take care of them.”

She reminded the audience and commissioners of Hurricane Isabel, which cut off Hatteras village. She was flown to the village by military helicopter to care for hospice patients. She wants the commissioners to keep the agency under local control.

Dianna Vurchio called the special people who worked with Dare Home Health and Hospice dedicated women who came to work every single day during the pandemic.

“There is a path forward,” and she called for cross-training.

“We strongly prefer to stay with the county. Please hear us. Keep Home Health and Hospice under local control.”

Vurchio announced a local petition for keeping Home Health and Hospice under county control. As of Sunday morning, April 25, 454 people have signed the petition, which also has 170 comments.



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