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100 years of health care at home

Easton Home Health on Emrick Boulevard in Bethlehem Township has grown into a large, for-profi t health care company since its founding in 1916. - (Photo / Wendy Solomon)

Long gone are the days when Easton Home Health’s first nurse pedaled her bicycle to the homes of sick patients to deliver care a century ago.

Long gone are the days when Easton Home Health’s first nurse pedaled her bicycle to the homes of sick patients to deliver care a century ago.

Today, though the company’s mode of transportation has changed, its mission to deliver health care to patients in their homes remains largely the same.

To honor its founding in 1916 by a group of concerned business leaders and citizens, Easton Home Health officials celebrated the company’s centennial June 15. The event included a look back at the organization’s history and the growth of home health care nationally.

“We want to celebrate the people, past and present, who have chosen a career that demands passion, purpose and heart,” said Elizabeth Houser, business development representative at Easton Home Health in a statement. “As a community we need to remember the quality medical care that often takes place in the comfort of the patient’s home.”

Unlike the past, Easton Home Health’s services are not limited to the poor. Today, patients must be referred to Easton Home Health through a physician or other health care provider, and they pay through private insurance, Medicare, Medicaid or out of pocket, Houser said.

During the celebration, officials recounted milestones in health care history that developed alongside the company’s growth. Former employees presented recollections, including from a nurse who recalled the time in the late 1960s when they had only one blood pressure cuff to share among eight registered nurses, a licensed practical nurse and a physical therapist.

Founded at a time when the public health nursing movement was taking root across the country, especially in cities with large immigrant populations, Easton Home Health, formerly known as Easton Visiting Nurse Association, has grown into a large, for-profit health care company affiliated with Easton Hospital, operating out of an office building at 3001 Emrick Blvd. in Bethlehem Township. It is part of a wider network that includes Brandywine River Valley Home Health & Hospice and TriCounty Home Health & Hospice in eastern Pennsylvania.

Easton Home Health was awarded accolades recently, earning high ratings from the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and it was included as one of the top 100 agencies on the 2015 HomeCare Elite list of Medicare-certified agencies.

From the lone nurse who made house calls, Easton Home Health now employs 31 health care workers that include nurses, both registered and licensed practice; physical and occupational therapists; home health aides and a social worker. Their patients, who span all ages except children and adolescents, are dealing with acute illnesses, long-term medical conditions or permanent disabilities.

While registered nurse Amy Whiten doesn’t ride a bike to see patients, she logs hundreds of miles on foot and in her car to see her patients in their homes, sometimes in challenging conditions. Last winter she rose to the challenge of maneuvering and parking her car in the tight warren of streets the day after a brutal snowstorm.

Wendy Solomon

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