State regulation will call for licenses for in-home caretakers - - Columbia, South Carolina |

State regulation will call for licenses for in-home caretakers

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In-home caretakers will soon have to become licensed through the state before providing daily services to patients who cannot take care of themselves.

Following years of research, meetings and planning, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control heard from 18 individuals Thursday during a public hearing for an in-home care providers' regulation, which was created following a General Assembly statute.

In-home caregivers will have to become licensed with an initial fee of $1,000 and annual renewal fees of $800 per person and are subject to 25% late fees if a license is not renewed within 30 days. The caregivers also have to submit to drug tests and criminal background checks; and undergo training that meets local, state and federal laws.

The regulation had little support Thursday as many providers and caretakers called the regulation too "clinical" since caretakers perform everyday duties, such as cleaning, pet sitting and bathing individuals. While they are able to assist in emergency medical situations, these caretakers, as described by public speakers, are not trained on medical procedures.

Family caretaker Dara Burk said Thursday the regulation creates a "huge expense" for everyone involved.

"What struck me is this is a clinical model being applied to homes," Burk said. "This is going to create a huge expense. My opinion is this is going to drive up healthcare costs."

"I do want background checks and drug tests," said Burk. "If there is any way to rewrite this in a way that's less clinical and gives us personal freedom in the home, that's my recommendation."

DHEC Health Licensing Director Gwen Thompson presented board members with 202 comments from previous meetings held during the last year concerning the in-home care regulation plan. Many public comments made Thursday were repeated concerns expressed in the other meetings and left some speakers wondering if their comments were heard the first time.

Danny Sanford, a consumer and professional in home care, feels like the purpose behind the statute is not being met.

"They are too clinical and don't address what in-home care does at large," Sanford said. "Let people age where they want to and how they want to do it and at a cost they can afford."

"That's where you are messing up with the regulation that was presented to you today," he continued. "You are going to send people into the underground road, and they will hire someone on their own. You want background checks and protection for citizens, but you aren't going to get any of that. If we really got listened to, we wouldn't be standing here today."  

But Thompson and DHEC Deputy Director Pam Dukes argued that it is not the agency's intent to add in the fees, along with the drug tests and background checks, but they say it's the statute that says what should be in the regulation.

"What we could eliminate in costs, we did everything we could," Dukes said.

Many providers showed most concern about going to a third party to get drug tests completed on their in-home caretakers to save funds. Since this will be DHEC's first regulation requiring a drug test, the board asked staff Thursday to tweak the drug test and health assessment guidelines in the regulation. The staff's work will then be reviewed by the board.

Despite suggestions, DHEC's board did approve the regulation without the modifications to those sections Thursday.

The agency has to submit the regulation back to the General Assembly by Dec. 23 or face starting over.

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