Thanks to a lot of hard work and the support of a number of Board of Supervisors, the Columbia County Certified Home Health Agency (CHHA) will not be sold and will continue to be a County run program. The CHHA currently employs approximately 24 UPSEU members and its sale could have resulted in the layoff and/or demotion of a number of staff.
"The CHHA provides a very important public health service to the taxpayers and residents of the County who are in need of home healthcare, as well as maternal child healthcare and pediatric healthcare," said Kathy Wright, UPSEU Regional Coordinator. Unlike a privately run agency, the County CHHA does not turn people away because of lack of profitability of staffing in geographic area; they treat those that private companies turn away. The County had been entertaining a purchase offer from a home health agency based out of Western New York who could not provide any guarantees that the level of services to the County would not be diminished.
When it became known that the County's Health Committee had recommended the Board approve the bid from the private agency, the nurses and staff of the CHHA hosted an informational meeting in their offices and invited all of the Board members. The UPSEU CHHA members shared with the Board members statistics showing the thousands of patient visits and home health services they provide annually, as well as how instrumental their services are at keeping re-hospitalization and nursing home costs down by treating people in their homes.
Wright also raised the issue at the June 6, 2012 Labor/Management Committee and, after extensive discussions and sharing of facts and information, secured the support of the four Board of Supervisors Management representatives (Deputy Chairman Kevin McDonald, Supervisors William Hughes, Matt Murrell, and Rick Scalera) to defeat the measure and keep the CHHA County run. All of the discussions and research and advocacy paid off because on Wednesday, June 13, 2012 the full Board of Supervisors met and defeated selling the CHHA. "There was no doubt a group of supervisors who were focusing solely on the cost associated with the CHHA and that is why they voted to sell it.Thankfully, there was a larger group of supervisors who balanced their focus between the cost and the commitment to the public health and voted to keep the CHHA," said Wright.
While this is clearly a victory, this is by no means over and there is much work to do to get the cost of running the CHHA down. To that end, UPSEU has already reached out to the County and committed to work with them to help make the CHHA a success.
Each of the CHHA employees should be recognized for their hard work and support on this victory. A note of thanks to all of the Department of Health staff who supported keeping the CHHA, and a special acknowledgement to UPSEU Shop Steward Pat Abitabile for her unwavering persistence and dedication to helping her co-workers keep this program. Not to be forgotten as well, a big note of thanks to the Supervisors who voted to keep the CHHA!