ELIZABETH A. CONKEY
BENNINGTON -- The local Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice is being acquired by its Rutland counterpart, a deal that will lead to expanded services in the Bennington area, officials said Monday.
The plan to combine services was approved last week by the governing boards of both hospitals, but still requires state approval before it is final, officials said.
If the acquisition is approved, Southwestern Vermont Health Care’s Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice will be owned fully by the Rutland agency.
Rutland will pay the local health care group $850,000 if the deal is approved by the Green Mountain Care Board, SVHC spokesman Kevin Robinson said.
According to Ron Cioffi, CEO of the Rutland Area Visiting Nurse Association and Hospice, and Thomas Dee, CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, current SVHC employees will not suffer pay cuts, as they will be offered "similar jobs," but highly paid employees may not be eligible for raises for a year or so following the acquisition.
Agency will be renamed
Bennington’s agency will continue to operate out of its SVHC offices, but will be renamed the VNA and Hospice of Southwestern Vermont.
The possibility of merging with neighboring home health care agencies was a topic discussed earlier this year, according to hospital officials, as smaller home health care outfits nationwide suffered due to declining federal Medicare payments.
Dee said Monday that the Rutland organization was chosen based on its similar culture and because it seemed like the "best fit."
"Our goal in seeking a partner was to prepare for health care reform by improving collaboration across a wider geographic area and potentially bringing new services into our area," Dee said. "SVHC has explored options with several other home care and hospice providers throughout our area, and we believe that the Rutland agency best meets our needs in terms of quality, services, and strong existing relationships in our region."
Cioffi said that by the two institutions collaborating, both organizations would be able to both reduce the cost of care and improve coordination of care throughout Bennington County.
"Our two organizations have a long history of collaboration and are both known for providing high-quality home care," Cioffi said. "Our goal is to ensure that strong, high-quality home health care continues to be available in the Bennington area. Eventually, we plan to add services, possibly including private duty nursing, community wellness, and specialty nursing, such as wound and ostomy care and psychiatric nursing."
The SVHC Board of Trustees met last Friday to approve a memorandum for the acquisition, which would begin the preliminary merging process; the Rutland agency’s board approved a similar document.
The document, in addition to citing the terms of the acquisition, states that the Rutland organization must work closely with Bennington’s on future health reform initiatives.
The proposed acquisition is expected to be reviewed by the Green Mountain Care Board within the next four to six weeks. Created by the Vermont legislature in 2011, the Green Mountain Care Board is an independent state agency charged with regulating Vermont’s health system and promoting innovations to make health care affordable and improve the health of state residents.
Contact Elizabeth A. Conkey at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @bethconkey.