Chicago HME makes its move

Saturday, November 30, 2002

MELROSE PARK, Ill. – Ultra Care's acquisition of Oxysound in late September bolsters the multi-market provider in two ways, says CEO Bruce Callahan – it doubles the number of patients for its respiratory business and deepens its geographic penetration in metropolitan Chicago.

Ultra Care gains more than 500 respiratory patients by obtaining Oxysound, which President Claudia Bastidas says has steadily grown since the Fox River Grove, Ill.-based company's inception in 1992. Bastidas will continue to manage the location and is charged with fostering its development and strategic growth.

Operating from a 37,000-square-foot facility in the inner-ring western suburbs, Ultra Care's headquarters is ideal for distribution due to its proximity to several major Chicago arteries. Because Oxysound is located in the far northwest suburbs, Ultra Care now has easier access to residents in that region.

"This is a first and important step in growing our company by extending our

regional base," said Dan Bramuchi, vice president of business development. "We have a three-year plan to significantly increase our market share and presence in the Chicago market as we move towards becoming a leading regional player in home medical services."

With competitive bidding a distinct possibility, Callahan said he is looking to establish a presence in the southern quadrants of the Chicago area. Despite the fact that Medicare comprises only 15% of Ultra Care's payer mix, maintaining a hold on that segment is critical, he said.

"Even though we are not overly dependent on Medicare, losing that business would hurt us," Callahan said. "We need to set up a regional network so we will be in a position to be competitive if competitive bidding comes into play. Size and volume would allow us to provide services at a lower price."

Bucking what industry observers have deemed to be an either-or trend toward clinical services or "bent metal" equipment, Ultra Care is committed to being a "one source solution" for the referral community. Its product mix is 40% respiratory, 30% infusion, 20% durable medical equipment and 10% rehab.

Yet the company is not a "generalist," Callahan insists: "A generalist is 'pretty good' at everything, but not great at anything. We want to be the best in all market segments."

And instead of shrinking away from managed care, the company embraced it in the early '90s and grew its business based on successful supply contracts. As a result, corporate revenues jumped from $350,000 per year in 1990 to $15 million in 2001. HME