County plans public hearing on home health sale

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Commissioners will hold a public hearing Wednesday regarding the potential sale of Wilson County’s home health agency.

The hearing will begin at 5:30 p.m. at the Wilson County Government Center located at 2201 Miller Road. A sign-up sheet will be located just outside the commissioners’ meeting room. Residents who wish to speak during the public hearing must sign up by 5:30 p.m. Those who choose to speak will be given one five-minute term per meeting. For those who can’t attend the public hearing, there is an opportunity to submit letters to commissioners via wilsonlistens@wilson-co.com or by mailing them to the Wilson County Manager’s Office, Attn: Ron Hunt, Assistant County Manager, P.O. Box 1728, Wilson, NC 27894.

Commissioners moved forward with their intent to sell or lease the public home health agency earlier this month after passing a resolution for the decision.

While Wilson County Home Health is run as a division of the health department, it operates as a separate entity with its own budget and revenue sources from not only patients with private insurance, but also those who receive Medicaid and Medicare. The agency also serves underinsured and uninsured patients.

The agency currently serves 350 patients and made more than 33,000 in-home visits last year alone.

The decision to sell or lease Wilson County Home Health isn’t in stone yet. The decision wouldn’t be made until sometime in June after several public hearings and an open bid process.

There is already a potential buyer for the agency — In-Home Healthcare Partnership, according to a public notice. The company is a joint venture between Duke LifePoint and LHC. Others interested have until April 30 to respond to the county’s request for proposals.

Wilson County Health Director Teresa Ellen has said home health hasn’t been able to cover its costs for the past several years despite cutting expenses in multiple areas. She has said last year’s deficit exceeded $900,000. Revenues have continued to decline due to cuts in Medicare reimbursement rates and a freeze in Medicaid rates.

If the sale were to be finalized, some 31 employees would lose their jobs. The county will be offering retention incentives for home health agency staff who stay on through the transition, county government officials have said. County officials said if a company were to purchase the agency, there is a likelihood that some staff would be able to be hired on. But current staff members expressed concerns to county commissioners earlier this month regarding their tenure at the agency, losing county benefits and patient care. County officials said they will work to find a buyer committed to quality patient care.