SCBHS exploring home health options

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Swift County-Benson Health Services is exploring options for restructuring its home health services operation or having it taken over by another organization.

At its meeting Monday night, the hospital governing board was told the home health sees a loss of between $450,000 to $500,000 annually.  Those losses are caused by union-scale wages, benefits and rules that add substantially to the cost of operations.

For example, CEO Kurt Waldbillig pointed out, if an employee calls in sick and another employee has to come in that employee is paid overtime though he or she may only have 20 hours in that week. Further, a home health employee gets 80 percent of his or her health insurance paid even if working only 20 hours a week. Public Employee Retirement Account (PERA) benefits also add to the costs of employees.

Those overtime and health insurance costs can build up quickly putting the financial operations of home health in a deep hole.

Another problem is that home health’s patient care numbers are low meaning there is less revenue coming in to pay the bills. Not long ago, there were 160 people receiving home health services. That number is now down to 104.

Home health has 18 employees who work the equivalent of 13.5 full-time employees. There are another 19 employees who work with the hospital’s assisted living program and crossover to help out with home health.

Monday, ahead of the governing board meeting, hospital management conducted three meetings with those employees who work with home health to outline the challenges and the possible solutions.

One solution that could keep the hospital’s home health program in place would be removing its employees from the hospital union. That would take a vote of the full union, which represents nearly 170 hospital and clinic employees.

If the union voted to keep the home health employees as part of their group, it would likely mean that SCBHS would drop home health and go with an outside provider for the services. If the union agreed to let home health employees leave, it would mean lowering of wages and benefits for those employees.

Hospital management has had discussions with the Appleton Area Health Services home health program and with the Lake Region Home Health in New London. Discussions with both will continue this week.

Waldbillig told the governing board that a decision should be made on the future of home health services within the next couple weeks.

Swift County-Benson Home Health Care is a Medicare-certified agency run by the governing board that serves clients in a 20-mile radius around Benson....


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