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Highest bid to acquire home care programs comes from Hospice

Niagara Hospice was by far the highest bidder for the Niagara County Health Department's home care programs, County Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton told the Board of Health last week.

Niagara Hospice offered $3.75 million for the programs, which the County Legislature has directed be sold.

The Visiting Nursing Association bid $2.5 million, and the Catholic Health System offered $1.85 million, Stapleton said.

An evaluation committee headed by County Manager Jeffrey M. Glatz will interview the top three bidders.

Glatz said the committee will meet Monday to plan its course and would conduct the interviews within two weeks, before recommending a purchaser to the Legislature.

WILLCARE of Buffalo offered $1.1 million, and Rochester Home Care bid $500,000. But those providers will not be interviewed because the bids were considered too low.

Stapleton said the price is not the only object. "The No. 1 priority is to have quality home health care available to all Niagara County residents," he said.

Besides Glatz and Stapleton, the committee will consist of Legislature Chairman William L. Ross, C-Wheatfield; Majority Leader Richard E. Updegrove, R-Lockport; Budget Director Daniel R. Huntington; Risk and Insurance Director Jennifer R. Pitarresi; Wanda Smiley, Health Department patient services director; and Dr. Robert M. Bauer, a Lockport orthopedic surgeon and Board of Health member.

The Health Department operates two home care programs: the Long-Term Home Health Care Program, sometimes called the "nursing home without walls," and the Certified Home Health Care Agency, which assists patients with short-term rehabilitation.

Bidding requirements include job offers for the programs' 12 employees.

John L. Lomeo, Niagara Hospice president and chief executive officer, said his bid complied with all the rules. But state regulators might take two years to approve the sale, and staffing levels would have to correspond to the patient load at that time, he added.

"We are hopeful that the Niagara County Legislature selects a Niagara County-based provider to continue in the mission established by the Niagara County Department of Health," Lomeo said. "Our proposal, besides being significantly higher than the others, should give all stakeholders, including residents of this county, comfort that when the time arises, health care services will be available to them."

Stapleton said the state Public Health Council will have the final say on the sale.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com