Even if Niagara County received an acceptable bid to buy its home health care program, the county couldn't close the existing program for 16 to 18 months, County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz said late last week.
Glatz said that's how long the state Health Department has been taking to review such transactions, and state approval is needed.
The County Legislature has directed Glatz to get the ball rolling on selling the county's license for a certified home health aide program and the long-term home health care program.
The county serves about 540 patients between the two programs: the Long-Term Home Health Care Program, sometimes called the "nursing home without walls," and the Certified Home Health Care Agency. The latter brings home care services to those in need of short-term rehabilitation or recuperation.
Glatz said that the county has been approached by about five potential bidders who want copies of the request for proposals. Besides existing home care agencies, Glatz said Niagara Hospice has shown interest, along with two private businessmen.
Glatz met Thursday with Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton about the terms to be included in the county's request for proposals.
Stapleton said he won consent for the document to contain four key safeguards.
The county will accept only bidders with some home care experience; it will insist the bidders have a plan to deliver care to all areas of the county, not just the cities; bidders who don't already have an office in Niagara County will be asked to open one; and the successful bidder must offer jobs to all the county Health Department workers displaced by the sale.
Glatz said Friday that an estimated 12 to 17 employees would be affected by the proposed sale.
Glatz said placing the restrictions in the bid documents is important. "Once the sale goes through, we have no authority to force them to take every resident they should be taking," the manager said.
Stapleton told the Board of Health on Thursday, "We expect every resident of Niagara County who wants home care will be able to get it. We're looking for language that will make that happen."
Orleans, Madison and Schoharie counties are already in the process of decertifying their Certified Home Health Care agencies, according to a map distributed at the Board of Health meeting last week.
Niagara is one of 18 counties where the county provides such services even though there are private-sector competitors. There are 15 counties that don't offer home care services through their health departments at all, including Erie, Genesee, Chautauqua, Allegany, Monroe and Onondaga.
On the other hand, there are 13 counties, including Wyoming and Cattaraugus, where the county government is the only supplier of home care services.
Glatz said the request for proposals should be complete by Friday. He said it will be reviewed by the Legislature's Community Services Committee before being mailed.