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Niagara home-care sale progressing

The first of three contracts needed to sell Niagara County's home-care programs will be signed soon, Public Health Director Daniel J. Stapleton said last week.

Stapleton told the Board of Health that a deal is expected in a week or two on an arrangement to have the Catholic Health System provide nursing services to patients the county's dwindling nursing staff can no longer handle.

Until the $2.65 million sale of the county's two home-care programs to Catholic Health is approved by the state Health Department, Niagara County will continue to have full legal responsibility for the services, Stapleton said.

However, the staff is down to 10 nurses and two clerical employees, about half of what it was before the county began the sale process.

"We're continuing to take new patients only on a limited basis," Stapleton said. Catholic Health won't be stepping in to take new patients until the transfer is done.

The new patients that the county is taking are being discharged only from Niagara County hospitals. Patients who went to hospitals in other counties are not being accepted for home care in Niagara.

The county has 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.

In January, before the County Legislature's Feb. 7 vote to approve the sale, the programs served almost 500 patients.

The second of the three contracts will be a management agreement detailing responsibilities during the transition for the county and for Catholic Health's McAuley Seton home-care division.

"We don't want anything to slip. We want care to be 100 percent perfect," Stapleton said.

During the transition, Stapleton told the board, Catholic Health has agreed to let the county pocket 25 percent of its insurance reimbursements for caring for in-home Niagara County patients.

The third and final contract will be the sale document itself. Stapleton said the final approval of the sale is expected before the end of the year.

In the meantime, the county is offering speech therapy as its primary in-home nursing service.

Kathleen Cavagnaro, interim director of patient services, said the nursing division will still have plenty of work, such as communicable disease, lead poisoning and sexually transmitted disease clinics.