Home health agencies consolidate and affiliate with hospitals

By Barbara Tetreault
BERLIN — The consolidation of home health care services with the region’s four hospitals is complete.

North Country Healthcare and North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency last week announced their partnership.

North Country Healthcare is an affiliation of the region’s four hospitals: Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin, Week Medical Center in Lancaster, Upper Connecticut Valley Hospital in Colebrook, and Littleton Regional Hospital.

North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency now provides home health care and hospice services to all of Coos County and parts of Grafton County.

“Through this affiliation we will be able to expand the continuum of care for our patients, and have home health services under one roof to support our entire program and the mission of North Country Healthcare," said North Country Healthcare CEO Warren West.

The affiliation allowed two existing home health agencies, North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency and Northwoods Home Health and Hospice, to consolidate into one agency.

Based in Littleton, North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency originally had an affiliation agreement with Littleton Regional Hospital and provided care to patients in Littleton and 21 surrounding communities. It also absorbed the city of Berlin’s patients and staff when the city decided this spring to close its home health operation.

Based in Lancaster, Northwoods provided home health and hospice services to the service areas of the other three hospitals in North Country Healthcare — AVH, Weeks, and UCVH — as part of a collaborative relationship.

The two agencies became North Country Home Health and Hospice Agency and operate as a wholly owned subsidiary of North Country Healthcare and the agency’s operations, financial management, clinic and administrative functions will be directed by North Country Healthcare.

The combined agency has 100 home health care providers, homemakers, nurses, nursing assistants, physicians, therapists, social workers and hospice volunteers and serves more than 1,750 patients and their families in 31 towns in Coos and Grafton Counties.

“This is an exciting year for North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency, first by affiliating with North Country Healthcare; second, by working with the city of Berlin to transition patients and staff from their home health department; and third, by combining with Northwoods Home Health and Hospice Agency in Lancaster,” said President Michael Counter.

In an interview last week, Counter said Medicare rates continue to drop and increasing regulations make it difficult for small home health and hospice providers to survive.

By combining two home health agencies, North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency expects to enjoy economies of scale, efficiencies and the coordination of combined resources that will strengthen the quality and efficiency of the care they deliver, according to documents filed with the N.H. Charitable Trust Division.

Counter said his agency will operate three drop sites for field staff to use so they will not have to drive to Littleton. In Berlin, there will be a drop site at Androscoggin Valley Home Care, which the agency has contracted with for health aides and homemaker services.

Counter said the consolidation and partnership is good for the North Country because it will allow the services to continue. He said his agency also provides hospice services, which he said Berlin did not have previously.

West noted North Country Home Health & Hospice Agency will have one of the largest geographic territories of any home health agency in the state with the smallest population.