|
|
|
The Telegram
  • Herkimer County Health Department changes continue

  • Herkimer County’s Public Health Department is facing major changes.

    The county legislature recently approved a resolution to close its certified home health and long term care agencies Dec. 1, although the state Department of Health hasn’t made a decision yet.

    And now, Public Health Director Dr. Gregory O’Keefe is resigning effective Nov. 24.

    • email print
  • Herkimer County’s Public Health Department is facing major changes.
    The county legislature recently approved a resolution to close its certified home health and long term care agencies Dec. 1, although the state Department of Health hasn’t made a decision yet.
    And now, Public Health Director Dr. Gregory O’Keefe is resigning effective Nov. 24.
    O’Keefe said he’s looking to focus on his private practice more while also taking on the role of Herkimer County jail physician. He said he’ll be there to help the legislature with transitional needs.
    “I’ve done this for 10 years, and I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” O’Keefe said. “I’ve had a chance to work with some really wonderful people in every part of county government.”
    The legislature recently approved the hiring of an assistant director effective Jan. 1, 2013, at a base salary of $50,000. County Administrator James Wallace, however, said the search for an assistant director hasn’t begun.
    “That’s why we’ll need to appoint an acting director,” he said.
    Legislature Chairman Vincent Bono, R - Schuyler, said there’s been talk in the past of sharing directors with another county.
    Legislator Helen Rose, D - Herkimer, likes that idea.
    “This is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to Oneida County, or a neighboring county, to share a public health director,” she said.
    Wallace said the change shouldn’t affect the timetable for the closure of the at-home and long term care agencies.
    Herkimer County privatized its in-home care agencies last year. According to the state Department of Health, however, the agreement allowed the county to still care for a small number of patients in long term care.
    There currently are six patients in the county’s care, Wallace said.
    “This agreement established a framework for Herkimer County to continue to provide home health care services to a small group of high-need individuals who are chronically ill or disabled,” said department spokesman Jeffrey Hammond. “The county is authorized to provide these services through its long term home health care program.”
    Hammond said the plan has yet to be approved.
    “All providers seeking to close a facility or discontinue services, are required to submit a closure plan that identifies an appropriate level of care for patients or residents,” he said. “And when such a plan is approved, a facility may close.”
    The home health services were provided by Bassett Healthcare Network’s At Home Care since March 2011, setting the wheels in motion for the county to save roughly $480,000.
    At Home Care CEO Laurie Neander said, however, Bassett decided it no longer was worth pursuing the certificate to provide services when the company already had its own.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We’re open to admitting those who are left if the patients so choose,” Neander said. “Many of those patients we’ve already absorbed into our existing programs.”
    At Home Care oversees about 325 patients in the county.
    Of the about 160 employees that Bassett employs for At Home Care, Neander said about 40 are in Herkimer County and many of them were former county employees.
    “We’ll work together to provide the remaining patients a smooth transition in care,” Neander said.
    Legislator Dennis Korce, R - Mohawk, said he doesn’t have concerns with either changes pending with the county’s public health department.
    “Nothing is forever,” he said. “I’m glad we had (O’Keefe) for as long as we did, and I wish him well.”
    As for the delay state’s approval of the agencies closing, Korce said that’s nothing new.
    “Slow is the rule, not the exception,” he said.
      • calendar