Regional Digest

Canadians say they are generally happy with the healthcare they get and the system that provides it. But according to the most recent HealthInsider, a national survey conducted semi-annually by the Canadian healthcare practive of PricewaterhouseCoopers, many say they believe that home care services, as well as waiting times in the emergency room, need improvement. Most Canadians feel that minor changes are necessary, according to the study, however 7% of the respondents reported that "we have to completely restructure it." Dale Murphy, author of the report, said respondents had a strong message for government and the Canadian healthcare industry in general. "Although they’re generally happy with the service at the local hospital and in their doctors’ offices, Canadians feel that our healthcare can be improved – especially when it comes to home care," Murphy said. According to the report, 81% of the respondents said home care should be covered by the Canada Health Act in addition to physician and hospital care. More information can be found at www.pwcglobal.com/healthinsider.

Anne Huey, who ran Lehigh Valley Hospice’s (Allentown, PA) operations for 15 years, has left the operation in protest. Huey disagreed with program executives who recently blended the services of Lehigh Valley Hospital’s home care and hospice nurses, reported the Allentown Morning Call. Huey said the two types of nurses "don’t mix well . . . and are being combined, in part, because of financial reasons." Huey accepted a position with a Philadelphia area visiting nurse hospice program that retains an exclusive hospice staff, but she said fears that the financial pressures on hospice programs across the country will force more integration, the Morning Call reported.

• CareAlliance Health Services (Charleston, SC) consolidated the home care operations of Roper and Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier. The merger became official last week and created one of the largest home healthcare organizations in South Carolina, reported the Post and Courier of Charleston, SC. Together, the two operations served 4,600 patients in 1998 and made 150,000 visits. Consolidation is a natural money saver, said John Hales, CareAlliance’s vice president of operations, because it costs CareAlliance less to run one big organization than two smaller ones. The operation will have 200 employees, the Post and Courier reported. Officials told the Post and Courier that the only way patients will know a change ocurred will be by reading the new organization’s name on their paperwork. The merger is coming about two years after Roper-Care Alliance and Bon Secours-St. Francis Xavier merged into what is now CareAlliance Health Services.

• Kaleida Health (Buffalo, NY) has laid off about 20 part-time home care nurses. The cuts come as the organization is working to close an expected budget gap, reported the Buffalo News. Another five or six office personnel also lost their jobs as a series of layoffs expected to exceed 100 continue, the company told the Buffalo News. The company had reported in December that it expected to eliminate more than 100 jobs.

Home healthcare advocates in Massachusetts are saying Gov. Paul Cellucci’s administration is holding back $7.8 million earmarked for frail seniors in an effort to have enough money for a tax cut. But administration officials said they were just adjusting the accounts to reflect the shortened budget year, reported the Patriot Ledger of Quincy, MA. Al Norman, executive director of Mass Home Care, said last week that nearly 900 seniors would not get the care they needed because the administration would spend less than appropriated by the Legislature. He added that the savings to the administration is a "down payment" on Cellucci’s proposed $1.4 billion tax cut, the Patriot Ledger reported. But the administration said it was standard fiscal practice not to pay out 12 months worth of services for the remaining seven months of the fiscal year, which ends June 30, reported the Patriot Ledger.