Local home care provider closing its doors, hundreds affected

By: Jenny You Email
By: Jenny You Email

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) – In just 60 days, a longtime home care provider is closing its doors. The impact goes beyond 120 workers and their families. Nearly 400 clients who get home care from Lifenet will have to look for new providers.

The Eau Claire company says it's planning to close on March 26th.

The president of Lifenet says the main reason is lack of government reimbursement from Community Health Partnership, which closed this month, as well as the State Division of Long-term Care.

CHP only had an answering service when we called. No one could get back to us on Thursday.

The closure is creating a ripple effect among workers and the people they care for, like Shirley Ulberg.

At age 60, Ulberg thought she would be in the company of her current caregiver, Lifenet, for a little while longer.

“I felt kind of bad about it because I’ve gone through a lot with them. I was hoping they would stay longer, like they were. I’ve done a lot of things through them. I wish they would stay on. They have been really good to me,” said Ulberg.

After nine years of getting home care from Lifenet, the new closure is a shock to Ulberg and hundreds of others.

“She puts me to bed at night, laundry, cooking,” said Ulberg about her caretaker Kris. “I've been with them so long that they're really good. it’s really hard to switch sometimes to a different one so once I switch I think I’ll be alright.”

Nancy Florence has been a registered nurse at Lifenet for the last 3 ½ years.

“Personally, I will have to move. I will have to relocate,” said Florence who makes around the clock visits with patients who need it. “We've been getting phone calls and they're quite upset because if you have a relationship with someone who works so closely with your personal healthcare, it’s devastating to not have that relationship anymore that you have had for a few years.”

The president of Lifenet said it's all because business isn't like it used to be.

“We used to deal with the counties, they would sign a contract with us, we would send them a bill, they'd pay us. We knew exactly when it was coming. Now it’s hit and miss,” said Jeffrey Fresia who has been running Lifenet with his wife for 19 years.

Fresia said he used $100,000 of his own retirement funding to pay his workers.

“I have a payroll to meet, taxes to meet and other expenses to meet and I can't go on indefinitely funding the state,” said Fresia. “I want my employees to get the respect that they deserve and that's why we're not going to continue.”

Fresia said caregivers are making sure current clients get another provider.

"120 employees, they're not making as much money as they should be making. They've been loyal, they've been dedicated, they are the angels that provide this care," said Fresia.

Thursday night, Rep. Kathy Bernier told us she and her staff are looking for into an explanation.

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