January 14, 2011


Slow CHHA transition calls for temporary hire

County considers bringing back retired fiscal officer during sale of home health agency

Staff Reporter

A longer than anticipated transition of ownership for the county’s Certified Home Health Agency is causing the Health Department staff to be stretched thin, prompting legislators to consider hiring a part-time worker on an as-needed basis.
Legislators will vote Jan. 27 on hiring back a retired fiscal officer on a per diem basis for six months.
Health Department Director Catherine Feuerherm explained the need for the additional help at Thursday’s Personnel Committee.
The employee retired in December and the replacement is struggling with multiple job duties since the CHHA has not yet transferred ownership to the Rochester-based HCR Services, said Feuerherm.
The fiscal officer’s replacement is also handling day-to-day administrative work of the CHHA.
“The intent was, we would be at a point with the sale of the CHHA that the new person would be able to step in and take over,” Feuerherm said.
But that has not happened, she said.
The most cost-effective solution to the problem, Feuerherm said, is to bring back the experienced employee who can train the new person and fill in as needed to lighten the workload.
Feuerherm said the fiscal officer is responsible for overseeing accounts receivable and paying state vouchers. Timely submission of state vouchers is crucial to ensure the county receives reimbursements from the state, Feuerherm said.
“The fiscal officer is important in making sure money is flowing. ... this is more administrative oversight of the big fiscal picture in the Health Department,” Feuerherm said, adding that the position is also central to the department’s securing of grants.
Feuerherm said the county expected the CHHA’s purchase agreement, management and staffing contracts would have been signed by now and HCR’s management on the way for state approval. She expects a contract any day now, saying lawyers have been negotiating and holding up the process since December.
Although the county has anticipated the transfer to take about a year to be finalized, the beginning stages were expected to be set in motion by now.
In October the county agreed to sell the CHHA program to HCR for $1.2 million.
The holdup has resulted in staffing at the county Health Department being put in a “holding pattern,” said Feuerherm, since she does not want to fill vacant positions only to lay people off once the transition is complete.
Feuerherm said that at two weeks into the year the department is still able to manage but she is already starting to feel the pressure of things “sliding a little.”
Legislators at Thursday’s Health Committee endorsed hiring the part-time fiscal officer. At the Personnel Committee later that morning legislators did not support a motion to pay the employee $25 an hour, a higher salary than the base rate of $21 an hour. Legislators will vote on hiring the employee at the base rate at the Jan. 27 session.


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