Free Healthcare? A century later, VNA’s answer is yes!
• Farmington Valley VNA Celebrates 115 Years
• CEO Nancy Scheetz Leads Free-of-Charge Nurse Brigade
This article first appeared as the cover story in the August edition of Today Magazine, our monthly publication
By Chloe Kieper and Bruce Deckert
Special to Today Magazine
THE FARMINGTON VALLEY Visiting Nurse Association is celebrating its 115th anniversary this year — putting it in the same playing field, age-wise, as Valley companies that are over 100 years old such as Ensign-Bickford Aerospace & Defense, Hoffman Auto Group, Mitchell Auto Group, Vincent Funeral Home and Welden Hardware.
The nonprofit Farmington Valley VNA is based in Simsbury, along with those five for-profit businesses.
The VNA was established in 1908, yet its practices and community impact remain relevant more than a century later. CEO Nancy Scheetz sums up the VNA’s legacy: “We were here for you during the 1918 Spanish flu, and we were and are here for you during COVID. No other home healthcare agency has our legacy of care.”
She says the VNA’s mission is to “provide and facilitate home care, hospice and rehabilitation care to the post-acute patient, and to remain committed to offering community-based wellness programs” — for her definition and explanation of post-acute see the exclusive Q&A at the conclusion of this story.
VNA nurses care for patients in their residences after their time spent in hospitals and rehab facilities. This means that the VNA gives patients personal care and focus, in the comfort of their own homes, to benefit their long-term healthy living and illness prevention.
How can in-home care improve a patient’s quality of life?
Nancy offers her opinion: “When people are treated in their own environment, risks of infection are less, they are more comfortable, and they learn to live within their own surroundings, even with illness and recovery. It also does save the healthcare world a great deal of money — it’s just a better environment, as long as you have the right care.”
The VNA is impactful because it provides a personalized experience. VNA nurses are able to form close relationships with patients and actively see the day-to-day effect of that connection on the lives of the people they care for. One fulfilling aspect of in-home care is that nurses can form life-changing bonds with their patients.
“There isn’t a way to put into words the relationship that occurs between a nurse and a patient,” Nancy says. “It is one of the most powerful bonds — and even when it is a brief relationship, for me, I can share that it marks my life forever.”
An incredible facet of the Farmington Valley VNA is that it provides free healthcare — yes, free of charge. Medical insurance co-pays cover some of the cost for some people, but for those who need help and can’t afford it, there is a way to move forward and combat their health struggles. Towns in the VNA service area and private donors provide funds that allow for free in-home care to continue even when insurance stops paying.
This might sound like a classic too-good-to-be-true scenario, but it is true — in these cases, when a VNA nurse visits and cares for a patient, the patient never has to pay.
“Medical insurance covers a lot, but insurance has its limitations,” Nancy says. “When an insurance company says a patient is better and no longer needs in-home care, we don’t always agree with that. So if insurance coverage has ended, and we feel that we can do more clinically to benefit the patient or prevent relapse and re-hospitalization, then we can step in and offer free skilled visits thanks to our donors and our town support for public healthcare.”
She adds that many patients are afraid of healthcare costs — “so much so that they opt not to have care, and then things that may be able to be treated minimally at first blow up and get much worse later.”
However, there are challenges that come with offering free healthcare. For as long as the VNA has been around and for as many people as it has helped, the organization faces ongoing funding issues.
“We face the same costs as the large corporate home healthcare agencies without the umbrella of a larger institution to support us,” says Nancy, who is the board president for the Granby-Simsbury Chamber of Commerce — she received the COC’s 2022 Business Leader of the Year award.
With the cost of living always rising, treatment and basic life expenses continue to be a challenge for area residents who need healthcare. For the VNA to continue to serve the community at no cost, it is essential that people hear about the VNA’s work.
“Donations and philanthropy are how nonprofits survive,” Nancy says. “Any way that this could increase, through planned giving, bequests later on when someone passes, all of this matters greatly to us. People are incredibly generous. … Imagine knowing that when you pass on, your money can fund care for someone who truly needs the help. The value of that is immeasurable.”
The VNA’s operating budget for this fiscal year is slightly over $4 million.
“Sharing with others through word-of-mouth recommendations is always one way the community can have a positive impact for our agency,” Nancy says. “The more we have positive relationships, and the more that others share that, when someone is in need, they will think of us.”
During the COVID pandemic, VNA nurses remained on the front lines, providing essential in-home services. When the rest of the world stopped, the VNA remained active, working to help patients stay safe and healthy. The Farmington Valley VNA received a 2021 Simsbury Hometown Hero Award for its response to the pandemic.
For 115 years, the VNA has made a difference for the residents of its own Valley — through philanthropy, community, accessibility and compassion. Here’s to another 115 years of legacy and commitment. +
• Exclusive Q&A with CEO Nancy Scheetz — Download this PDF:
Chloe Kieper is a 2023 graduate of Avon High School — she won a first-place award in this year’s SPJ contest for her Today Magazine story about AHS educator Eileen O’Neil
• Awards Story — Sweet 16: More SPJ awards for Today Magazine
Today editor-in-chief Bruce Deckert is a multiple award-winning journalist who previously worked for ESPN Digital Media, the Journal Register Company and West Simsbury-based The Master’s School — he believes that every man and woman is a storytelling journalist, and all people merit awards daily when they utilize their God-given storytelling gifts for good