Home Care Specialists looks back on 30 years

Saturday, February 28, 2009

HAVERHILL, Mass.--In the 1970s, when there was no home respiratory therapy industry to speak of, providers William Desmarais and Gary Rudis started their home oxygen business.

At that time, welding companies supplied medical gas and Desmarais and Rudis, both respiratory therapists, were working full-time jobs at the local hospital.

“It was just the two of us getting out of work at 4 o’clock in the afternoon and delivering 25 to 30 oxygen cylinders from the back of our pickup trucks and getting home at 8 or 9 o’clock,” said Desmarais, co-owner of Home Care Specialists. “The next day we’d start all over again.”

Eventually, they opted to “leave the comforts of the hospital” behind and focus on their


This year marks Home Care Specialists’ 30th year in business. Since 1979, the provider has expanded on several fronts, adding two new locations in New Hampshire and Maine, and picking up new product lines.

Home Care Specialists started providing hospital beds and basic wheelchairs and walkers in 1983, in part because their oxygen referral sources wanted a company that could handle all of their patients’ equipment needs, Desmarais said. Then in the late 1980s, Home Care Specialists began offering patient lifts and alternating pressure mattresses, as it began working with area hospice programs.

In 1998, the provider added sleep therapy to the mix when it bought out a local competitor with a large sleep operation, Desmarais said. Now the company operates a separate sleep division and employs several respiratory therapists.

Oxygen remains ithe provider’s bread and butter. The company employs a large clinical staff and offers in-home clinical services, at the request of physicians, for no reimbursement, Desmarias said.

“Oxygen providers should be paid for servicing patients and providing products and clinical service,” he said. “CMS refuses to recognize this.”

More than 300 of the company’s oxygen patients will cap out this year.

“We’ll be standing on our feet,” Desmarias said. “Our concern and also the industry’s concern is are other payers going to follow Medicare’s route?”