Audit Blasts State DPW for Late Paychecks to Caregivers

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SCRANTON -- State Auditor General Eugene DePasquale released a scathing audit of a home health care program that Action 16 investigated earlier this year.

This is the story where some caretakers of disabled or elderly home-bound patients, were forced to wait months for a paycheck,

The audit found both the home bound who needed help, and the care givers who get paid roughly nine dollars an hour got a raw deal when the state changed its payroll provider in January.

That month, Paul Zabar of Scranton lost four caregivers.

All of them quit after working weeks without a paycheck.

"If it weren't for some very close friends, I don't know what would have become of me," says Zabar, who has disabilities from complications he suffered when he was bit by a spider a decade ago.

As for the payroll problems, Pennsylvania's Department of Public Welfare claimed its system for the Attendant Care Program was outdated and open to abuse.

So it consolidated payroll operations of 36 regional health care systems and chose a single company, Public Partnerships of Boston to manage it.

The state audit of the transition found.

* The Department of Public Welfare failed to recognize that Public Partnerships was not prepared to take over the payroll functions of 20,000.

* Some caregivers worked up to four months without getting paid.

* 1500 elderly or disabled people were forced into more expensive health care costing taxpayers $7,000,000.

"What are they going to do to reimburse the taxpayers for the $7-million dollars worth of aggravation?," asked Paul Zabar, who says he too had plenty of aggravation.

Last month, he was finally able to get a full-time caregiver, six months after his last one quit.

"I'm still independent enough and well enough that i can do a lot of things myself," Zabar said.

In response to the audit and the criticism, DPW Secretary Beverly Makereth released a statement, claiming her office, "Apologizes for the hardships," and that after a tough transition, the new system is "...running smoothly."