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      Plans could help prevent privatization

      Madison County is considering privatization of its home health care agency and long-term home health program. However, before it makes a decision on that, the county says it's going to make an effort to help the program become more profitable, a move that could possibly save it.

      The agency came under fire after it gathered a deficit of $400,000 last year. On top of that, an audit said the agency was performing below industry standards. The audit said more time was spent on paperwork than patient care, and staff members were not seeing enough patients.

      If the agency were to be privatized, 44 positions would be affected, including nurses, home health aides, office assistance staff, and management.

      "Obviously the threat looming over their heads is still there," says Madison County Public Health Director Eric Faisst. "But I think they've come together. They've wanted to make it work."

      The county is trying to make it work, too. On Tuesday, the Board of Supervisors passed several resolutions that could help save the agency. Rates are being increased for several home healthcare services. The department hopes that will increase the money coming in from insurance companies. The board also voted to begin working with McBee Associates, a company that works to increase reimbursement received from insurance companies.

      The county is launching a marketing campaign in an effort to bring in more health care clients.

      "We would like to see productivity increase. The patient numbers they show us aren't quite what they are on state and national averages," says John Salka, Public Health Committee Chairman.

      County officials say they're not making any decisions before they get more information.

      "We have not decided to divest ourselves from this," says County Administrator Paul Miller. "We have decided to commit, and we have decided to do a better job."

      Miller says if the county were to privatize the agency, it would likely happen at the end of this year or the end of next year.