Fort Myers News-Press Highlights HCAF Member Agency for High Quality Home Care Services

From Fort Myers News-Press by Yvonne Ayala McClellan

In 1976, Ted Wolfendale’s father, Alan, was diagnosed with bone cancer.

He was given four years to live.

The family gathered together and cared for him those four years, and recognized a need in the community for home health care services.

“My mom sort of felt this mission that there were other people in the community that had similar challenges and similar issues and so we started Dial-a-Nurse,” Wolfendale said.

Thirty-five years ago, his mother, Lynette, launched the company. At the time, there were no nursing agencies or hospices in Naples or Fort Myers, but today there are two hospices and about 38 home health agencies, he said.

“Through the downturn it was difficult, like anyone else,” he said. “Because we’re private pay … when the economy turned, people didn’t want to spend money.”

Despite the increased competition in the market over the years, the company’s sales are up.

In 2011, the company collected about $2.1 million in gross revenue, compared to the $1.38 million it collected in 2010 – a roughly 17 percent growth year-over-year.

Part of its success came from establishing the business to meet the market’s needs.

It grew up as Southwest Florida developed and the Wolfendales recognized the demographics in both the Naples and Fort Myers markets. The company hired registered nurses, licensed nurse practitioners, nurse companions and homemakers as staff for its home health care agency based in Naples and opted for a nurse registry as its main operation in Fort Myers.

Having the different formats to suit each market helped the company as competitors moved in. The registry in Fort Myers has 40 independent contractors while the Naples home health care agency is 110-strong.

On the home health care agency side, as an employer Wolfendale is responsible for carrying out background checks, having liability and workers’ compensation insurance in place, as well as other requirements enforced by law. On the nurse registry, he can set his own requirements, nurses work as independent contractors and there are fewer requirements enforced by law, he said.

Having a nurse registry in Fort Myers better fits the cost-conscious mindset of area residents, he said.

“We have a registry in Fort Myers that if someone wants to hire us through the registry, it can be cheaper,” he said.

But the company’s license for the home health care agency extends through Port Charlotte, so those who prefer to have a staffed nurse on the home health care agency side have that option as well.

Cape Coral resident Joe Bernardo had done his research and heard about the company several years ago, when his mother Carol needed some health care help at home. Now nurses come by once a week, and Bernardo’s mother has stuck with the company over the past four or five years, he said.

“We are pleased with their service,” said the 50-year-old Bernardo. “We find them to be very pleasant. The nurses are very kind, they’re prompt…and dependable.”

Its 35-year run in the Southwest Florida community has given Dial-a-Nurse a lasting reputation, not only among area residents, but for those who work in nursing as well, Wolfendale said.

The company has also maintained stringent checks when hiring staff. Wolfendale said it has a set procedure for background checks and requires nurse and nurse assistant applicants to take a written exam on site to show proof of their knowledge. The company conducts drug tests, requires two references and has a thorough interview process as well.

Another boon to business is its wide access to continuing education materials for staff.

In the 1980s the Wolfendales opened a second company, Nevco, which creates continuing educational video programs for those in the nursing industry as well as other health-industry and health-education related videos, both for professionals and the general public.

The video program was a response to federal requirements for continuing education for nurses in the U.S., but expanded beyond that initial market and is now distributed internationally in 23 countries.

It made a library of the company’s programs available to its staff to keep them current on the latest trends in the home health care industry. They have 110 programs they’ve made and have branding agreements with other distributors, giving staff access to a library of more than 800 programs.

“I’m so prideful that my nurses are so educated and they know what they know,” he said.

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