Blotskes clear health-care hurdle |

Blotskes clear health-care hurdle

Allyn Harvey

At least one hurdle in the health-care dilemma that plagues 1-year-old Saige Blotske was overcome last week, when a Grand Junction-based home health-care provider accepted her case.

April Blotske said Friday that after several weeks of discussions, Interim Healthcare of Western Colorado has agreed to care for her daughter, who was born in November 1998 with a rare genetic condition known as Apert syndrome.

Interim Healthcare will begin staffing the Blotske home with nurses three days and seven nights a week sometime in mid-February, after the family returns from Dallas, where Saige will undergo her second major cranial surgery in less than a year.

The agreement with Interim closes a hole in Saige’s health care that opened on Dec. 10, when Home Health Care of the Rockies, claiming nonpayment, announced plans to drop her coverage beginning Christmas Day.

News last month of the family’s plight motivated locals to donate more than $15,000 to a medical fund set up by Christ Community Church in Basalt. April said the money has been used to pay for all of the nursing during the last week of 1999, and three shifts a week since Jan. 1; the family’s private insurer, Aetna, paid for the overnight shifts.

Two of the nurses have also been working full-time – and two others part-time – without pay, hoping the family would find a way to keep them employed.

And April is quick to say the donated money and nursing bought the family the time it needed to find a new provider. “We still have a long way to go, but now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re really looking forward to working with Interim; it’s a solid company with a great reputation,” she said.

Even so, the agreement caused a stir among at least a few of the nurses who have been caring for Saige, because they expected the family to sign on with Aspen Home Health, a 2-year-old firm based in Glenwood Springs.

Some may discontinue their relationship with the family, although others may stay on, said Hellen Doane, Saige’s nursing manager for the last year.

“I told April that Aspen Home Health had put a lot of time and money into trying to qualify so they could bill for Medicaid coverage – they’ve even hired a lawyer. I have loyalty to Aspen Home Health,” said Doane, who expects Jan. 26 will be her last day as one of Saige’s nurses.

“But,” she added, “I can’t say whether I would have decided any differently if it were my child’s care.”

Interim Healthcare owner Mark Hollinger declined to comment about how his firm will be able to make money given Saige’s limited insurance coverage and reliance on Medicaid. Nor was he willing to comment on the case in general, and how it fits into his company’s caseload.

“I think some order and, more importantly, some privacy needs to come back into this case. They have a right to live their lives as normally as possible,” he said.

Interim Healthcare of Western Colorado, Inc. is a 6-year-old franchise of Interim Healthcare, Inc., which was formed in the mid-1960s and is one of the nation’s oldest providers of home health services, according to a press release. It offers a wide range of services at home for more than 160 patients in Western Colorado.

Victims of Apert syndrome require constant care in infancy and early childhood, as they undergo several operations to separate skull plates that fuse prematurely, and fingers and toes that are fused at birth.

Saige’s biggest health problem – and the reason she needs constant attention – is respiratory. Like other Apert babies, the middle of her face is not growing as fast as the rest of her face, so her sinuses don’t function normally. She breathes through a tracheal tube that requires constant monitoring, and she is hooked up to an oxygen tank every three hours.

Without nursing assistance at home, the family would have to place Saige in a hospital that cares for chronically ill patients, the family’s doctors have said, either on the Front Range or out of state.

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