Home for Christmas: HMEs juggle staff, pay overtime to help patients

Sunday, December 24, 2006

YARMOUTH, Maine - Retailers aren't the only businesses dealing with last-minute throngs of Christmas customers. Oxygen providers say the days immediately preceding the holiday are often some of the busiest.

"Everyone wants to try and feel better and get home," said Raul Lopez, director of operations for Bayshore Dura Medical in Miami Lakes, Fla.

With seven area hospitals referring patients, Dave Mills, co-owner of Chesapeake, Va.-based First Choice in Homecare, ramps up staffing levels.

"The hospitals are trying to get people out," said Mills. "It can get crazy so we've doubled the call staff."

Lopez hires temps to keep up with clerical work, but otherwise he relies on regular staff to handle the increased patient volume.

"It's a matter of juggling drivers and paying a little extra overtime," he said.

Providers agree that doing what it takes to get people home for the holidays reminds them why they stick with HME despite its often rocky existence.

Mills recalled a BiPAP-dependent patient whose last wish was to go home for Christmas.

"When we got the person settled in the house she turned to me and thanked me," said Mills. "There's not a lot of times when a lay person can walk into someone's room and get credit like that. I'm not the kind of medical professional that someone should hang such a glorious tag on."