Commissioners in Halifax Country, N.C., have begun to process of selling the publicly funded Home Health and Hospice of Halifax, due to unsustainable declines in revenue stemming largely from stepped up private sector competition.
Prior to the sale, the county must approve a pending resolution authorizing the sale, then hold a public hearing on the sale. Halifax County will then oversee a bidding process that will conclude with a second public hearing to approve the final sale price, according to North Carolina law. The resolution allows the county to engage a consultant and legal representation to facilitate the sale.
Home Health and Hospice of Halifax was created in 1969 as a service through the Halifax County Health Department. The agency has been running a deficit for more than a decade, County Commissioner Rives Manning told Hospice News.
“Last fall [the agency] came to us and said they needed $300,000 to carry them through the end of the year, and some of the commissioners decided that they wanted to sell it. I went to bat because I felt we needed the service and felt like we needed to give them a chance to recover,” Manning said. “When they sent us their quarterly report last month the shortfall was down to $250,000. At that rate we are looking at six or seven years to break even. Our small county can’t afford that. To put it shortly and bluntly, they are losing too much damn money.”
Manning, who introduced the resolution declaring intent to sell, said he has been a long time supporter of the agency, which provided his wife with home health care and hospice nearly six years ago.
Valuations for the agency are subject to a bidding process, and county officials could offer no predictions as to the eventual selling price. They did indicate that parties had expressed interest in the sale, and that a clause in the request for proposal would require the purchaser to retain current staff for at least one year after the sale. The county expects bidding to begin in July or August.
“There have been several [prospective buyers] who have expressed an interest,” said County Manager Tony Brown. “But pending a review, we don’t have a valuation for Home Health and Hospice of Halifax.”
The agency’s uphill battle to remain solvent was largely due to increasing competition in the hospice and home health space.
“There were fewer patients and added competition from the private sector, with four other hospices in the area that have come in over the years,” Manning said. “I feel like we could have provided better service [than competitors], but when expenses exceed your revenue for a sustained period of time, that’s your downfall. I hope other providers will step up and fill the gap.”