BrightSpring, with $2.9M offer, becomes new operator
By a 6-0 vote, the Dare County Board of Commissioners on June 21 approved the sale of the county’s Home Health and Hospice (HH&H) agency to the Kentucky-based BrightSpring Health Services for $2.9 million. Commissioner Rob Ross did not attend the meeting so could not cast a vote on the sale.
Prior to the vote, Commissioner Ervin Bateman told fellow commissioners that he didn’t want to put Dare County residents in the position where they could not get services when they need them due to the current staffing shortage.
“I don’t mind saying that this decision is beating me up big time… I do believe the number one priority for me, and a decision I gotta make, has got to be made for the citizens of Dare County,” Bateman asserted. “If we don’t make the decision to do this, according to what people have told me, and I’ve talked with [Dare County Health and Human Services Director Sheila Davies] at length, this thing might implode, and we can’t handle it ourselves.”
After making the case late last year that it could not financially sustain HH&H operations and nor secure enough employees, the county began exploring the sale of the agency, which provides in-home care to Dare County residents suffering from a terminal illness or recovering from a recent illness, injury or surgery.
After receiving four bids this spring that ranged from $250,000 to BrightSpring’s $2.9 million, the county approved a non-binding Letter of Intent with BrightSpring, a for-profit agency. Intentions by the county to sell the agency generated some discontent among members of the community as well as HH&H employees, both on social media and at commissioners’ meetings. Those opposed to the sale argued that the level of care would suffer at the hands of an outside for-profit agency.
County Manager Bobby Outten told commissioners at the June 21 meeting that under the terms of the sale, all county HH&H employees would be guaranteed a job with BrightSpring, continuing healthcare coverage and a retention bonus.
Outten also noted that as part of the contract of sale, BrightSpring will cover the entire service area of Dare County. and that if the healthcare agency breaches that agreement, the certificate of need will then revert back to the county. Also as part of the contract, BrightSpring cannot transfer the certificate of need for three years, effectively meaning they cannot sell the agency for that period.
After that three years, even if the certificate of need changed hands, Outten said the service area would still be covered. “Our certificate of need is for a particular service area, which is Dare County, and whoever has that certificate of need…has to provide that service for all of Dare counties so the service level wouldn’t change,” he stated.
During the public comment period at the meeting, Dare County resident Charlie Parker urged commissioners to keep HH&H as a county operation.
“We all willingly pay to educate our children about lives, we should all be willing to educate and help each other at death,” Parker said. “The county has the money to do the operation of home and hospice and if we have to pay through the nose for nurses and everything else, we should do that. So, my question is, ‘Do you as individuals want a for-profit company to make a business decision about your loved ones in their last days?’”