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KishHealth takes over county home-care program

DeKALB – The DeKalb County Health Department is laying off 16 employees as it transfers its home care program to KishHealth System because of budget constraints.

Talks between the organizations have been going on for months. The county’s home care program was expected to run a $284,000 deficit in 2013. Jane Lux, county public health administrator, said it was the right time to end the program and hand responsibility to KishHealth System before the beginning of the new year.

“It was a difficult decision,” she said. “But, we thought it was the best scenario for continued success of the home care service and we know KishHealth System shares our values.”

Losing the employees was the most difficult part of the decision, Lux said, adding all would be free to seek employment with KishHealth System as it starts its own home-care service. She said the staff provided high-quality service that was vital to the community for years.

“It’s always difficult to eliminate jobs,” she said. “These are employees that do very important work to help people stay in their homes with their families.”

Sharon Emanuelson, spokeswoman for KishHealth System, said job openings would be posted and county employees are encouraged to apply.

Home-care services provide skilled nursing, home health aides, physical, occupational and speech therapy, and medical social workers. The program allows those with chronic illnesses or who are recovering from surgery to stay in their homes with family.

The home-care program served 772 people in 2011 with county staff making 13,162 visits. It generated $1.9 million in fee revenue but ran a deficit. By shedding the program, the health department could reduce its estimated deficit of $340,500 to about $56,500 in 2013.

Since 2010, there has been a 26 percent decrease in the home care program’s revenue because of cuts in Medicare compensation and a declining case load. Lux said major changes to health care laws also played a role in deciding to end the program.  

The county had operated the program since 1966. Emanuelson said KishHealth System was eager to continue to the legacy of quality home care that the county provided the community.

“We feel it’s going to be a good transition for patients,” Emanuelson said. “We have the same goal of preventing readmission to the hospital and maintaining a good quality of life for patients at home.”

KishHealth System and the county health department are working together to assure uninterrupted service during the transition.

What is means

Sixteen county employees will lose their jobs, but the health department could reduce its estimated deficit of $340,500 to about $56,500 in 2013 by closing its home health program.

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