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Barbara Shipley
Helen Camp
Mark Braccio

Chris Bilynski

Mary Talbo

By John Addyman

LYONS (Sep 23 10) – Members of the Wayne County healthcare community – nurses, caregivers, family members, agency coordinators and patients – spent more than an hour tonight asking the board of supervisors not to close and sell the CHHA.

The CHHA – Wayne County’s Community Home Health Agency – provides on-site nursing assistance to senior citizens and those who cannot totally care for themselves, people who want to stay in their homes but need assistance. The CHHA also ran the H1N1 flu clinics last year and supports the county’s MOMS program for poorly prepared new mothers.

In an Aug. 31 meeting of the supervisors’ 21st Century Committee, an infrequently convened group that discusses ways of saving money, the neck of the CHHA was put on the wooden block under the gilloutine.

There are reasons to close the CHHA: it lost $187,000 last year; billable visits to county residents fell 48 percent between 2000 and 2009; fringe and salary costs continue to rise to maintain the program, indicating a bigger loss in this and following years; a marketing effort and $12,000 spent to get people interested in the program hasn’t had the desired effect; private firms are equipped and preparing to take over the load.

But the black-and-white analysis doesn’t tell the whole story, said those who spoke up last night.

Mary Talbo, speaking from her wheelchair and with someone holding the microphone for her, said closing the CHHA is a “mistake. If you think you’re going to save money, you’re not.”

She and many others after her spoke about the change they fear – service will not be available to them at the level or frequency now supplied by the county at a reasonable cost, and they’ll end up in a nursing home, at a much greater cost to taxpayers.

“I cannot dress myself, or eat or bathe,” she told the supervisors. “I wish every one of you never get in this position. If you did, and didn’t have a CHHA to depend on, you will regret giving it up.”

Tom Talbo, a primary caregiver, told the county to “grow the business, get grants, find funds. Stand up for the ones who save you money by staying at home.”

Barbara DerCola read from a letter Carmela MacRito, 93, who wrote about losing her independence. “The CHHA nurses give me care in my own apartment,” MacRito wrote. “What a blessing.” She told the supervisors they are paid “to help us county residents with the quality of our lives. Home healthcare means more than you could know.”

Nurse Shara Yerdon, who has worked for the CHHA, warned that closing the agency would leave care in the hands of what is now a local monopoly. “Wayne County should have a choice,” she said.

Barbara Shipley warned that the private agency left to provide home healthcare service is in Monroe County and the nurses there will be less willing to come to the far reaches of Wayne County. “How will they respond to higher caseloads?” she asked. “If we save a dime with closing the CHHA, we’re going to spend dollar after dollar on the other side.”

Noting the county’s statistics pointing to a drop in billable visits, Betty Van Duyne explained that in most cases, a patient is in the hospital and can be discharged home, with nursing care needed. In Monroe County, those patients and their families are directed to private agencies, right there in the hospital. At Rochester General, she said, “families are pressured to use a private agency.”

“I’m very disappointed in supervisors who are voting to close this down,” she said. “Let the people of Wayne County decide.”

Helen Camp watched in frustration as her husband died. She called the private agency entrusted with his care to get someone to his bedside. “Wait until the morning,” she was instructed on the phone. “If he’s still alive, ask for someone to come to the house.” At 5 the following morning, she felt her husband had passed. Camp called for instructions. “Call an undertaker,” she was told.

“Because I was in Wayne County, they didn’t want to send anyone out from Rochester to provide healthcare for a dying man,” she said.

Chris Bilynski said Wayne County residents were paying about $2 per household per year each to maintain the CHHA. But when a person gets badly injured or old age’s infirmities take their toll, these people have a choice today – “Sell everything and go into a nursing home, or use county health care.”

Nurse Marty Tertinek was worried about the people who would fall quickly between the cracks when the CHHA’s service ended, especially those without ability to pay, who would be ignored by the private, for-profit agencies.

“Do you want to prevent the train wreck before it happens or pick up the pieces after it happens?” she asked.

“The county nurse is a totally different breed of nurse,” Tertinek added, saying the special programs they present and support is being overlooked.

Daniel Crandall, with Supervisor Steve Groat (Galen) holding the microphone for him, spoke from his wheelchair. “This agency helped me a lot. If you close down my services, I’ll have to go to a nursing home. I don’t want to. I will fight this closing.

Mark Braccio, an emergency service coordinator, said he knew the CHHA nurses well in their special role to provide high-end emergency medical support: “I’m one of the people who will get the call to get them into the field…in the event of a disaster.” He named some of the hard targets for such a disaster – schools, hospitals, factories, the nuclear power plant.

Carol Countryman warned about the “blind sincerity” from private firms promising to take over all the CHHA patients. “I don’t believe it, nor should you,” she wrote. “Nurses are in short supply – why would we want to give them away?” She said the notion to close the CHHA is “fiscally irresponsible and morally repugnant.”

Paul Peters, president of CSEA Local 859, noted the $2 per household savings to close the CHHA, and asked Supervisor Kim Park (Wolcott), who has spearheaded the move, “Do you expect taxpayers to line up and shake your hand?” He, too, pointed out the other programs the CHHA nurses support, then told the supervisors: “Some of you know this is wrong. I hope you have the courage to do the right thing.”

James Arena, after praising patients and nurses for courageously speaking up and noting the supervisors “have a fiscal burden and take it seriously,” asked the board “to make a compassionate decision.”

Public Health Director Diane Devlin said she was concerned that the closing the CHHA “will affect the health of my community.” As the administrator of the CHHA, she asked the supervisors to end years of debate. She noted that new healthcare legislation would change the CHHA, but in ways not yet known.

Given credit by others for turning around the public health department and the CHHA, Devlin asked the board to get her staff off the horns of the dilemma. “They can’t live for six months to a year in a fishbowl wondering if they’ll keep their jobs,” she said. “You have to make a decision: make it.”


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  1. Sarah Zaso Said,

    Yes let's have the people of Wayne County decide I vote to get rid of it, I am sick and tired of paying for things I will never use like the Nursing home and these nurses. Since when do ALL of us have to pay for a few? Just because it's county run does NOT make it better I believe the Nursing home was writtened up for many violations, the PRIVATE one my Mother worked for NEVER written up. just more excuses to spend MY hard earned tax dollars on things I will never use.

    Posted on Fri Sep 24, 06:15:00 AM EDT


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