Visiting Nurse Home Care closing, laying off about 150 employees

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDOctober 23, 2013 

Visiting Nurse Home Care, a nonprofit agency that provides in-home care for people in Whatcom, Skagit and Island counties, is laying off about 150 employees and closing its doors Nov. 30.

"The state has not kept up with administrative costs and we couldn't afford to keep running the programs," said Barry Meyers, board president for Visiting Nurse Home Care. "We were serving the poorest of the poor and there's just not enough money in those programs to cover our overhead, to provide the administration of the program."

Visiting Nurse helps seniors and people with disabilities stay in their homes by providing services that include housekeeping, errands, licensed nursing and personal care. It also provides health care services to Whatcom County Jail. Visiting Nurse has existed for more than 30 years.

"It's sad news that they will be ceasing operations," said Richard Dietz, a planner with the Northwest Regional Council. "They have been providing quality in-home care services to seniors and people with disabilities, and to their caregivers, in our region for many years."

The council also is the Area Agency on Aging. As such, it contracts with home-care agencies for services in the region, including Whatcom.

Dietz said the agency is working with clients who receive help through state programs and assuring them that services will continue through other contracted home-care agencies without interruption.

About 96 of Visiting Nurse's 118 caregivers have provisionally been offered jobs by Catholic Community Services, Meyers said. Seven of its 12 administrative staff also have been or will be offered jobs at Catholic Community Services.

The jail program had about 13 employees, Meyers said. That program will be under a new contract with another provider.

The board has worked to try to transition employees into new jobs, Meyers said, and to make sure the "vital services" the nonprofit provides will continue in clients' homes as well as at the jail.

Meanwhile, Visiting Nurse has suspended its Friendly Visitors program, hoping that another organization will pick it up. That program reaches out to isolated and lonely seniors in Whatcom County by matching them with a trained volunteer who makes a weekly visit to share conversation, an outing or a hobby.

Reach Kie Relyea at 360-715-2234 or kie.relyea@bellinghamherald.com.