Regional Digest

• West Virginia Home Health Services is buying Strategic Health Services, a division of Camcare (Charleston, WV). The deal includes in-home intravenous therapy, private duty nursing, aide services and the home care pharmacy service, reported the Associated Press. Strategic employs about 180 people and it lost $1.5 million last year, Camcare’s CEO Phil Goodwin said.

The Record, a newspaper in Hackensack, NJ, found through a nine-month investigation that more than 100 criminals – thieves, robbers, drug dealers – are working as home healthcare providers in the state. The state has lax laws regulating home healthcare, the newspaper reported. Home health experts said it is difficult to find good workers for only $7 an hour, saying working in a fast food restaurant offers better benefits. Through a computer analysis, the newspaper compared a list of certified aides against a list of criminal convictions since 1996. In March, New Jersey began requiring agencies to screen applicants for criminal backgrounds, but it does not require background checks after a license is granted. Gov. Christie Whitman called for background checks for all of the state’s 24,000 home health aides, shortly after she learned of the newspaper’s investigation.

Nevada expects to see its senior population rise so that it ranks 15th in the nation for the highest percentage of seniors. The state now ranks 39th. Its senior population will climb about 10% between 1995 and 2025. That means 21% of its residents will be 65 or older. Aging officials say they need to prepare a healthcare system for the influx of seniors using Medicare. In 1997, Congress locked out some Nevada seniors from home healthcare in the Balanced Budget Act. That leaves them with more expensive emergency room or hospital care, reported the Associated Press.

Washington’s Department of Social and Health Services is considering making stricter changes to its tax-supported adult home care program after finding a disabled Everett woman was severely abused and neglected for 10 years, while the state continued to pay her husband state money to be her caregiver. The department proposes better criminal background checks of caregivers, the establishment of an adult abuse registry to keep track of caregivers notorious for the behavior, giving broader authority for the state to fire individual caregivers, better training for home care aides, lower caseloads for those who supervise the caregivers, the hiring of more Adult Protective Services workers, and boosting wages and benefits for home care workers.

The Health Alliance of Central New York in Syracuse, NY, plans to form a partnership with VNA Systems Inc., the city’s biggest home healthcare provider. The two companies are operating under a confidentiality agreement and will not release further information until they finish evaluating the plan in several months, reported the Post-Standard.

Six home healthcare agencies owned by St. Joseph Health System in northern California are merging their business and administrative operations to save money, reported the Press Democrat in Santa Rosa, CA. The merger has been in the works since May and most employees have been reassigned. A few have been laid off. St. Joseph said the merger occurred because of growing financial pressure from Medicare reimbursement reductions. The merger involves Home Care Partners, Petaluma Valley Home Health, North Coast Home Health and other agencies in Napa and Humboldt counties.