Dwayne Samuel accepts an award from the New York Public Library for his new nursing business.

A Bronx-based startup plans to offer affordable home nursing care to residents of the South Bronx and other underserved communities after winning the New York Public Library’s StartUP! business plan contest in October.

Curatio will begin serving the public in 2013 to provide a service the agency’s founder says is urgently needed in the neighborhood. 

“Put in Bronx diabetes rates or put in Bronx obesity rates. They are the worst, bar none in the country,” said Dwayne Samuel. “There is over-demand and undersupply of affordable healthcare.”

The obesity rate in the borough is 67 percent compared with the citywide average of 58 percent, according to the city’s Department of Health. Diabetes, too, disables many residents and leads to the need for home nursing.

South Bronxites are hospitalized for diabetes at 10 times the rate of residents of Manhattan’s Upper East Side, according to a 2007 health department report.

Samuel says the new agency’s model calls for nurses aides making regular visits and performing non-critical tasks, to complement more specialized services provided by nurses. The aides will cook and dispense medication for residents, he said, to bring down costs.

“Many poor patients ignore managed nursing services because they think such services are out of reach. This might be a feasible way to make such services available and affordable in the Bronx,” said Eva Lopez, who manages a nutrition advocacy program at non-profit SoBRO.

Medicare and Medicaid programs do not cover all the costs of engaging a full time home nurse, a frequent problem many in low-income neighborhoods face.

“When my mother was ill, Medicare did not pay for a full time nurse, so we had the nurse train our family members to handle many caregiving tasks for her,” said local resident Ricky Quinones. “The idea of have a trained aide who could help nurses will be good for patients when hiring a full time nurse might be too expensive.”

“It’s a good business model. But if the aides aren’t well trained or supervised by competent people, the eventual cost to patients might end up being much higher,” cautioned Dr. Tilokie Depoo, dean of the business school at Metropolitan College of New York, who teaches in the school’s healthcare management program.

“I don’t know if untrained aides could handle medical emergencies,” said Mariam Soto, Program Director at Casa Boricua Senior Center, but added uninsured seniors could benefit from the new service. Many seniors aren’t eligible to receive home nursing under Medicaid, she said, whereas they “just need someone to accompany them, help with shopping, buy medicines – and untrained aides will be able to meet that need.”

Curatio is expected to formally launch next year once it receives regulatory clearances that cover nursing agencies.

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