Rutland visiting nurse association plans to acquire Bennington group
By Patrick McArdle
STAFF WRITER | October 01,2013
BENNINGTON — Officials at the Rutland Area Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice are planning to acquire their counterpart in Bennington, but local health care officials say the change will be almost seamless for patients and local employees will be offered the chance to stay on.
If the acquisition is approved as presented, the Visiting Nurse Association & Hospice of Southwestern Vermont Health Care will stay at their current location on the Bennington campus shared by the hospital, Southwestern Vermont Medical Center, and be renamed the VNA & Hospice of Southwestern Vermont.
Ron Cioffi, CEO of the Rutland area visiting nurse association, said all of the employees, medical and management, would be offered similar jobs. Cioffi said the acquisition was still in the early stages but at “first blush,” the pay and benefit structures seem similar so he expects employees will receive the same or similar pay.
When RAVNAH merged with the Dorset Nursing Association in 2006, none of the salaries were reduced, Cioffi said.
On Monday, Thomas Dee, president and CEO of Southwestern Vermont Health Care, said the acquisition needs to be approved by the Green Mountain Care Board. An application is expected to be made in four to six weeks, and Dee said the board could take three to nine months to act on it, although he said he’s hoping a decision will come sooner.
Dee said the sale should not be viewed as a sign of fiscal trouble. Monday was the last day of its fiscal year and Dee said they expect to announce they “beat our budget projections.”
“We continue to have a very solid operating position. That being said, we need to prepare ourselves for a whole different era of health reform where my expectation is … over the next five years, health care providers, hospitals, home care, long-term care, are going to see significant reimbursement reductions. So we have to come up with ways that promote high-quality care and also make sure we’re running in a cost-effective way,” he said.
About a year ago, SVHC partnered with Dartmouth-Hitchcock and Dee said SVHC leaders were looking for other collaborations. The visiting nurse association made sense, Dee said, because it was a small part of what the health care system offers but important to continuing to offer a full continuum of services.
Dee called the proposed acquisition a partnership.
“The hospital doesn’t have to own everything in terms of having a strong health care system. You have to be able to collaborate,” he said.
Dee and Cioffi said they hope the transition will be as “smooth as possible” for patients because of the continuity of staff and the base of operations.
The budget of the Bennington-based visiting nurses is about $4 million while RAVNAH’s is about $11 million. Together, there are better chances to get economies of scale.
SVHC officials said they also believe they will be able to offer other services by combining with RAVNAH. Those possible services include private duty nursing, community wellness, and specialty nursing, such as wound and ostomy care and psychiatric nursing.
RAVNAH is also a good fit because it already operates in Bennington County in Dorset and Rupert.
According to Cioffi, RAVNAH employs 286 people while Dee said there are 67 employees for the Bennington service.