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Healing at Home

For patients who can't get out of the house, San Vicente Home Health Care delivers just what the doctor ordered.

 

Registered nurse Nellie Sipko sits at the helm of San Vicente Home Health in her light and airy upstairs office on Arizona Street in downtown Silver City. It's a relaxing, healing sort of place. Thriving plants bring in a sense of vitality and soothing coolness, and a couple of friendly cats wander in, brushing against legs, adding casual personality. Sipko's bulletin boards are full of photographs, inspirational images, affirming statements. And a bulging in-basket and stacks of folders give evidence of the organization's very active caseload.

Left to right: Jill Hooper, RN, Nellie Sipko, RN, Carolyn Cordova, RN, Henrieta Lewis, RN, and Tina Powell, representing about a third of the staff of San Vicente Home Health Care in Silver City.

In 1996, seeking to offer the community a choice in home health care delivery, a group of healthcare professionals established San Vicente Home Health as a non-profit agency. Last August, after working for the organization for four years, Sipko decided to buy the agency, now a for-profit entity.

The previously fulltime healthcare professional had a number of challenges come her way when she added administration to her plate of responsibilities. Of her learning curve, she says with a laugh, "Well, I knew, but then again, I didn't really know."

She confesses to being flat-out exhausted at times. Now over the hump of her first year of ownership — with a staff of 15 professionals and a burgeoning caseload edging above its normal high-water mark — Sipko is in high gear. She talks excitedly about her "greatest staff ever" and San Vicente Home Health's place in the local health care market. She says the agency usually carries a caseload of 30-40 patients at a time, a statistic the agency exceeds regularly these days thanks to the new client referrals area doctors are sending in each month.

"That is the number one thing that has helped us grow, and it's a great boost, a real vote of confidence," Sipko says with a broad smile. "We do a great job. Home health outcome results are publicly reported data, and I'm proud of our results." She notes that San Vicente Home Health compares favorably on both state and national levels.

 

Sipko describes the process of qualifying for and setting up in-home medical care visits. The first step, she says, is a medical professional's referral.

"The doctor may want the patient to get physical therapy or a course of treatment, like intravenous antibiotics," she says. "The doctor or the doctor's office calls us and requests that we deliver home care because the patient can't get out to get it.

"The one absolute requirement is that the patient needs to be home-bound to qualify for our services; like they can't get out to the gym for their physical therapy or they can't get to the doctor's office for care," Sipko says. "It can't be a matter of them saying, 'I just don't want to go to the gym for my PT, I'd rather have it at home.' The patient really has to need our services."

A wide range of reasons could be the cause of a patient's lack of mobility, she says: advanced age, blindness, physical frailty or debilitation, inability to drive.

Next up in the process is an evaluation, always done in person. Sipko picks up a thick sheaf of papers and flutters the pages.

"Yes, we fill out this lovely 14-page assessment," she says with a laugh.

Next, a visitation schedule to deliver care is set up. Many patients require several visits per week and the average course of treatment is two months, Sipko says.

"Under Medicare, patients are approved for 60 days of treatment," she explains. "We can discharge a patient early if the medical goals are met, and if more time is needed, we can ask for re-certification for another round of treatment." Patients with catheters, for example, often need additional rounds of treatment due to recurrent infections, she says.

 

Sipko estimates that some 80 percent of San Vicente's clients are Medicare patients. The agency also accepts Medicaid, private insurance and self-pay. Most clients are in Silver City and the surrounding mining district, including Bayard and Hurley. But San Vicente Home Health professionals also travel as far as Buckhorn, Sipko says.

The company's motto is "Expert care, exceptional caring." Sipko says she thinks San Vicente's smaller size (as compared to Gila Regional Medical Center, for example, which also offers in-home care locally) allows her agency to deliver individualized attention, a personal touch especially valued by some homebound patients.

"It's about both the professional and the personal, and I think we have the greatest staff we've ever had," Sipko says, mentioning employees by name and specialty.

"Clients just rave about him," she says of physical therapist Randy Harkins. "They love his holistic approach to things." Kevin Crowner, another physical therapist who's a specialist in geriatric care, also stands out. "That's especially important for us given our client base," she adds.

Clinical director Carolyn Cordova, RN, is an oncology-certified nurse. Jill Hooper, RN, is a wound care specialist. And so on down the list.

"I don't want to leave any of them out because each one is key to our success," Sipko says. "It's a real team effort, and we count on each one of us to do our respective jobs and deliver great care."

— Donna Clayton Lawder

 

San Vicente Home Health Care, 200 N. Arizona Street, Silver City, www.sanvicentehomehealth.com, 538-0912, 1-888-538-0912.

 

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