Niagara County officials have selected Catholic Health's McAuley Seton Home Care division to take over the county's home health-care business.
County Manager Jeffrey Glatz has forwarded the recommendation to the Niagara County Legislature's community services committee, which next meets Jan. 24. The recommendation has the support of County Legislator Tony Nemi, I-Lockport/Pendleton, chairman of the committee, as well as Daniel Stapleton, public health director for the county. Nemi was also a member of the ad hoc committee that reviewed the bids.
Final approval for the sale of the county Department of Health's certified home health care and long-term home health care programs requires a vote by the full legislature Feb. 7, as well as approvals from the state Department of Health.
McAuley Seton was in a heated competition with the Visiting Nurse Association, an affiliate of Kaleida Health, which launched an aggressive campaign in recent weeks to win the business, including having hundreds of employees and patients send postcards to county officials in support.
Glatz said in a conference call late Tuesday there were repeated interviews and questions back and forth before the decision was made, based in part on McAuley Seton's higher bid of $2.65 million with a down payment of $795,000 over Kaleida's $2.5 million bid and down payment of $250,000.
"It was really close between Catholic Health and VNA," he said. "They're both quality organizations that have outstanding service records that I think would have done well in Niagara County either way."
In a prepared statement, Catholic Health officials said it was well prepared to expand its services in the county.
"We are confident in our ability to deliver high quality home-care services to the people of Niagara County and believe the County Legislature will make the best decision for its residents."
Kaleida representatives previously said VNA was the best choice to win the business because its bid was higher and it is already serving clients through an existing certified home health license.
Catholic Health had argued that the amount of the bid was just one criteria that should be determined. Both comments came before the best and final offers were considered, Glatz said.
McAuley Seton currently provides in-home nursing care in Erie County for people returning home following a health care facility stay and individuals at home who have experienced a decline in their physical condition.
"The good thing is McAuley Seton has a certification for CHHA in Erie County and because we share a border, that makes the approval process a little shorter," he said. "The transfer has to be approved by the New York State Department of Health, but during that interim time, we will probably begin to have some of the nursing services that our clients need provided on a contract basis. They're well experienced in home care - they provide that in Erie County, so they'll be able to hit the ground running."
Stapleton said ultimately the goal was to make sure that no matter who was selected, quality home health services had to be available to all residents of Niagara County. Meeting that goal was backed up by the selection of McAuley Seton, VNA as finalists along with Niagara Hospice from five initial respondents to the request for proposals. The other two were Willcare of Buffalo; and Home Care Rochester.
Niagara County is the next in a series of counties throughout the state shedding their licenses for home-care services in the face of rising costs. Home Care Rochester won bids to take over home health care licenses in Genesee and Orleans counties; while the VNA in December won a bid to take over the CHHA and LTHHC programs for Steuben County. According to the DOH 31 of the 54 counties currently offering home health services are in the process of shifting their license to private outside groups.
Under county operation, Niagara County's programs currently serve about 540 residents annually. The county deficit for running the program last year was $1 million, a result of declining reimbursements and the cost of providing state mandated services for home care, nursing and clinics, Stapleton said. He also disputed media reports that it will cost the county more to have McAuley Seton provide nursing and other services like physical therapy, saying the cost will actually be paid by insurers and other payors, not county residents.