Family ties

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

As a child, provider Charles Barnes III recalls spending time in his father’s pharmacy and HME store, where he would settle into a wheelchair with comic books and ice cream.

“I think I was born at the soda fountain,” said Barnes, CEO and third-generation owner of Barnes Healthcare Services, a Valdosta, Ga., family business that has been growing and evolving since his grandfather, Charles Barnes, opened shop in 1909.

Charles Barnes III began working at the store in 1972. He took over the business four years later after his father suffered a heart attack.

Today, Barnes Healthcare offers respiratory, rehab, infusion and DME, as well as prescription, over-the-counter and compounded medications. The provider employs 210 people and operates 19 locations in Georgia and Florida, as well as a new store in Alabama.

This year, as Barnes Healthcare marks a century of service, president Robert Steedley says the company will not be intimidated by declining reimbursements or regulatory changes.

The company began looking at ways to boost productivity several years ago, when the 36-month oxygen cap and national competitive bidding were just whispers, said Steedley. In addition, the company continues to diversify its product mix. It added negative wound pressure therapy several months ago and it continues to explore other lines, including orthotics.

While charting the company’s future, officials are hopeful it will remain in the family for years to come. Charles Barnes III’s son, Charles Barnes IV, is currently learning the business as a store manager in Georgia, said Steedley.

“We would love to see (him) eventually take over the business, but whether that’s in five years or 15 years, who knows?” he said.