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St. Lawrence County begins transfer of long-term care

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CANTON — St. Lawrence County has begun transferring patients from its Long-Term Health Care Agency and hopes to shut down its program by the end of the year.

The county opted to close its Certified Home Health Agency after the state decided to allow more providers to offer the service, but it could not close its long-term agency until another organization was providing care for vulnerable patients.

Health Services of Northern New York was approved by the state Department of Health to take over the county’s long-term health care patients, but final paperwork is still pending.

The county transferred the first of 31 patients to Health Services on Monday, even though the agency still does not have a Medicaid billing number.

“At this point, we cannot bill for any of the patients we’re taking. We have evidence to believe it’s imminent,” said Matthew D. O’Bryan, administrator of Health Services. “We were comfortable enough to begin the transition. We will get reimbursed. We’ll get it when we get it.”

The county has been eager to shut down its agency, which is operating with minimal staff, so it can eliminate it from its budget.

The county agency has five staff members. Once it is closed, a registered nurse and a licensed practical nurse will be laid off, interim Public Health Director Lorraine B. Kourofsky said.

The remaining staff — the director of patient services and two registered nurses — will devote the time they have been spending in the long-term program to early intervention, she said.

Mr. O’Bryan said he could not say when the transfer of all patients would be completed.

“They’re new people to us,” he said. “We have to have our people assess them. These people aren’t in perfect health.”

The financial impact on the county budget of the closure of the CHHA and Long-Term Health, its sister agency, is uncertain.

“This is a whole different way to look at Public Health. You can guesstimate that Public Health will be less costly, but we don’t know that,” Ms. Kourofsky said. “It’s not like an apple, where you can cut it and say one side is Public Health and the other side is the CHHA. There’s a lot of things the CHHA paid for. Reimbursements will be different. We won’t know until we’re into next year.”

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