Commentary: Berlin is lucky to have a VNA

Commentary: Berlin is lucky to have a VNA


I would like to take this opportunity to update the Berlin community on the activities and status of the Berlin VNA. There have been many challenges facing the healthcare industry over the past few years that have impacted all aspects of the care delivery system; including hospitals, nursing homes and homecare agencies.

For the past two years the VNA has set goals related to compliance with state and federal regulations. I am happy to say that through a great deal of hard work for everyone in the agency, we have reached those goals and brought the agency up to date in many areas that required revision and have received a deficiency-free state and Medicare survey. Our patient satisfaction reports continue to be at a consistent five star rating. 

There have been concerns out in the community that have been brought to my attention that are related to misinformation regarding the VNA that is being discussed at various town board meetings and among citizens of the town. Much of information being shared has not been discussed with, or verified by, anyone at the VNA. Therefore, it is unsubstantiated.

In terms of the agency status, the VNA is fully open to provide all homecare services; including nursing, physical therapy, occupational therapy, social work and home health aides. All of our staff are experienced and dedicated to our patients and we pride ourselves on providing care immediately, as requested, and making sure that care is provided by consistent clinicians whom, with the patien,t can develop a trusting relationship. We are available seven days a week, 24 hours a day to respond to our patients’ needs. Our philosophy is: the patient comes first and the patient has choices and a voice in their own plan of care. 

The number of patients, on average, for the VNA has been between 60-70 the past two years. The biggest challenge to growth has been receiving patient referrals when we are so geographically close to the large healthcare corporations, which provide similar homecare services. We have been working very closely with other smaller agencies and VNAs in the state to support ourselves in this environment and see that patients and families are being given a choice of their homecare provider and that they are knowledgeable regarding the benefits of choosing smaller, more community-oriented care agencies. This is a work in progress. However, we are seeing and hearing positive feedback for our efforts. 

We have heard comparisons being made regarding how many patients our clinicians visit on a daily basis versus the industry standard. Our agency uses a nursing model that is consistent with smaller, non-corporate homecare agencies and we are meeting the industry standard with our visits per-day and clinical productivity. We do not follow the same model of large corporate agencies who are able to move patients through their system in large numbers. We also pride ourselves on the fact that we spend time with our patients and deliver the highest quality of care possible. 

With regards to making money, homecare is not historically a profitable business. The Berlin VNA was very largely in the red in terms of finances over the past several years. In the past couple of years, we have made some process changes to help with the annual budget deficit the VNA had accrued and we continue to work to make changes and decisions that will improve our revenue and financial outcomes in the long run.

That said, it took several years for the VNA to fall into a very large deficit and there were many issues that needed to be addressed for the VNA to become at all sustainable. It will take time to bring the VNA to a level that is financially stable. Healthcare is heavily regulated and there are many things that are beyond our control. Skilled care is expensive to provide, as are medical supplies and services needed to care for and keep people in their homes. Our goal is to provide that care at a high level of quality and keep patients safe in their homes where they can recover more quickly and comfortably. 

The Berlin community is lucky to have a VNA, as many towns do not have healthcare so readily available to them. The Berlin VNA hopes to continue to care for the citizens of Berlin well into the future with a community-oriented, family approach to home health care.

Wendy Russo is nursing director for the Berlin VNA.