Business Briefs: Ensign, Covenant Care Acquisitions

Ensign Group Acquires Iowa Hospice

The Ensign Group (NASDAQ: ENSG), which owns and operates a diverse portfolio of senior care service companies, on May 1 acquired the assets of a hospice company in Iowa, the company has announced.

Hospice for Wright County now will be owned and operated by Heartland Healthcare Inc., a subsidiary of Cornerstone Healthcare Inc, which itself is Ensign’s home health and hospice subsidiary. The hospice will do business in Wright County under the name Gateway Hospice. The city of Clarion, the county seat of Wright County, is located about 90 miles north of Des Moines.

“We are very pleased to announce this addition to our hospice operations,” said Christopher Christensen, Ensign’s President and Chief Executive Officer, in a prepared statement. “We have served residents of Wright County for many years at Clarion Wellness and Rehabilitation Center, and are pleased to expand the continuum of care we offer to residents in this community and the State of Iowa.”

Financial terms were not disclosed.

Upon closing of this transaction, Ensign’s portfolio will include 16 hospice agencies. The Mission Viejo, California-based company’s portfolio also will include 15 home health agencies, 3 home care businesses, 17 urgent care clinics, and 204 health care facilities across 14 states.

Covenant Care Acquires Home Health Agency

As part of a continuing effort to expand beyond hospice services and become a more comprehensive post-acute provider, Covenant Care has acquired Peoples Home Health, a Medicare-certified home health agency serving four Florida counties.

“The industry demands providers enhance patient experience, reduce the cost associated with care and improve the health of populations in its communities,” said Covenant Care President and CEO Jeff Mislevy, in a prepared statement issued Tuesday. “Medicare, Medicaid, private insurers, hospitals, large physician groups, nursing facilities and assisted living communities all expect the post-acute providers with which they work to have the capacity to address advanced illness care in both inpatient and outpatient settings – from hospital discharge to end-of-life care.”

Peoples Home Health is a privately held company, and financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

Covenant Care and Peoples Home Health have enjoyed a “collaborative relationship” and the agency is “honored” to join with Covenant Care, said Peoples Health Vice President Tim Buttell. He will continue with the organization in a leadership capacity.

This acquisition is the latest move in Covenant’s effort to expand beyond hospice services. The nonprofit company, which has been in existence more than 30 years, also recently launched private duty home care services and expanded its Alzheimer’s care offerings.

Pensacola-based Covenant Care now serves more than 7,000 patients each year in the Florida panhandle region, the company stated in announcing the Peoples Health transaction.

National HealthCare Corp. CEO Stepping Down

Robert Adams, the CEO of Tennessee-based National HealthCare Corporation (NSYE: NHC), will step down at the end of the year. NHC, which calls itself the “nation’s oldest publicly traded senior health care company, is a senior housing and home care operator with 74 long-term health care centers, 36 home care programs, 5 independent living centers and 20 assisted living communities.

Adams will officially retire on December 31, 2016, after serving as CEO of the company since 2004. He has been with NHI for 40 years. NHI’s board plans to develop a transition plan and begin a search for a successor soon. Adams will remain with the company as non-executive chairman of the board.

Visiting Nurse Health System Names New CEO

Visiting Nurse Health System, a long-time home health and end-of-life services provider in greater Atlanta, has named Norene Mostkoff as CEO, effective July. She brings more than 25 years of non-profit management experience to the role.

Mostkoff has served as president and CEO of HCI-VNS Care Services of Des Moines, Iowa, since 2009. That organization, which was named one of the best places to work in Iowa by the Des Moines Register, currently serves more than 65,00 patients in 44 counties. In that role, she successfully let the merger of Hospice of Central Iowa and Visiting Nurse Services of Iowa,the state’s largest home care and hospice programs. She currently serves as the chair elect of the Visiting Nurse Association of America. Prior to working at HCI-VNS, Mostkoff served as COO at HospiceCare Inc.—now Agrace HospiceCare—in Madison, Wisconsin.

Mostkoff replaces Mary Arthur, who is serving as interim CEO and has previously served as COO for Visiting Nurse Health System. Arthur stepped into the interim CEO role from retirement in December to support the organization’s CEO transition process.

Trinity Health Launches Innovation Challenge

Trinity Health, one of the largest multi-institutional Catholic health care delivery systems in the nation, has launched its inaugural Innovation Challenge, offering $2 million in grants to identify, fund and implement ideas aimed at improving care and reducing readmission rates for patients who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid. Nearly 11 million people are both Medicare and Medicaid eligible.

Trinity will fund six winning innovations up to $350,000 and implement them in key communities and regions. A winner will be matched with a Trinity Health facility if the awardee is from outside the organization or industry if they don’t already hold those relationships.

Dual eligible populations typically have higher 30-day and 90-day readmission rates. Dual eligible patients cared for by Trinity Health’s Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) were found to have readmission rates about 106% higher than non-duel eligible patients over a three-month trial period.

“This year, we are looking for breakthrough ideas that can help us deliver more personalized, people-centered care to the populations of patients in our communities who are covered by both Medicaid and Medicare,” Anna Marie Butrie, vice president of the innovative program and service for Trinity Health, said in a statement. “Dual eligible patients have complicated and costly medical needs and we can really make a difference for them by offering more coordinated care and by enabling them to engage more fully with their own care.”

Visiting Angels Opens New Mexico Business 

National home care chain Visiting Angels has opened another franchise business in Farmington, New Mexico. The location is the first Visiting Angels franchise in the state. The company provides in-home health care services, including living assisted services, companionship and daily activities like light housekeeping, laundry, meal preparation, medication reminders and errands.

The location was opened by franchise owner Chris Smith. Visiting Angels has nearby regional locations in Colorado.

Home Care Companies Consolidate in New York

Mohawk Valley Health System (MVHS) is consolidating its home health services by closing St. Elizabeth Home Care and transitioning patients to the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Utica and Oneida County, as well as other providers in the area, Business Journal News Network (BJNN) reported.

MVHS is an affiliation of Faxton St. Luke’s Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Medical Center. The two Utica, New York, organizations partnered in March 2014.

MVHS will be able to provide services more efficiently by closing St. Elizabeth Home Care, the organization stated in a press release. MVHS also owns VNA of Utica and Oneida County.

Fourteen employees will be affected, BJNN reported. These workers can apply for other positions in the health system.

Written by Amy Baxter and Tim Mullaney