By Michelle Wagner | Outer Banks Voice on March 2, 2021
With Dare County’s Home Health and Hospice agency facing challenges in retaining enough nurses to meet local demand, the Dare County Board of Commissioners is considering whether selling the agency to a private operating entity would best serve the community.
On March 1, the commissioners had a public hearing on a resolution of intent to consider the option. The move followed an earlier action in December 2020 by board to enter into a $37,500 contract with Roberts Law Firm of Raleigh to investigate the feasibility of selling the agency and identifying potential private entities interested in operating it.
Nurses with Dare Home Health and Hospice, which is Medicare certified and licensed by the state, provide 24/7 in-home, medical services and hospice support to residents of all ages in Dare County who are homebound and may need supportive care. Those eligible could range from individuals who are recovering after a hospital stay or that require palliative care and support during a terminal illness.
At the December commissioners meeting, County Manager Bobby Outten said were only three nurses serving 56 patients in Dare County. In the past, the agency has had as many as seven home health and hospice nurses to meet the needs of the community.
While Outten said the agency had been successful for many years and delivers a high quality of care, he added that the last year has been a struggle.
“It’s a very difficult job, the hours aren’t normal hours…for various reasons, our ability to keep and retain nurses for our home health and hospice program has diminished,” he explained. “In starting to look at some numbers, [they] don’t line up very well in terms of revenues versus costs to provide the service.”
Outten said that county officials, for more than a year, have looked at a number of options to solve the issue. “Do we change salaries, do we subsidize further, or do we let the market take care of it…you all will have to make that decision at some point?” he told commissioners at the time.
Noting that the agency delivers top-notch care to its patients, Outten said that the county was committed to protecting its employees with any contract it may enter in to. “We would certainly have their backs and do everything to protect them,” he noted.
There has been no timeline set for a decision on any sale, but Outten said he anticipates that a response from Roberts Law Firm would come in time for budget considerations for the upcoming 2020-21 fiscal year.