December 30, 2006

Is The Jasper County Health Department Being Shut Down?

The Health Department is in trouble. Some details emerged at the 10/2/06 BOC meeting when district representatives from Macon gave a presentation to the Commissioners. Facts, figures, problems, and questions were presented; the word CRISIS was used. (See details of that presentation at end of this newsletter.)

Sources tell TWG that as of today, there is one person working at the Health Department—Environmentalist David Mercer. There is no longer a nurse, an LPN, a clerk, no one!

How many people use the Health Department? What is the purpose of their visit? The Health Department provides flu shots, blood pressure checks, birth control and family planning, vaccines for children, TB patient oversight. The Health Department provides services for elderly, poor, and any one else. Many years ago everyone took their babies and children to the Health Department to receive their shots. Most elderly people receive their flu shots from the Health Department.

Where will these people go for help, treatment, checks, etc.? What will it cost our county in the long run not to have a viable Health Department and its services? Why aren’t the same people that are concerned about the hospital, concerned about our Health Department?

Why hasn’t this crisis been reported? What are our officials doing about it? TWG has been at every meeting since October and nothing has been discussed or done (at least not in public). Are all services going to be referred to the hospital or the emergency room? This is where people will most likely end up going—even though their needs are not “emergencies.”

Mayor Susan Holmes (706-468-6085) is the Chair of the Board of Health that oversees the Health Department. BOC Chair Jack Bernard (706-468-5101) also sits on the Board of Health. Contact these two people to find out what is going on, what the plans are for the Health Department, and what people who use and need the Health Department are supposed to do when they arrive and no one is there.

See notes below from BOC meeting where Health Department presented Commissioners with problems.

Health Department presentation 10/2/06 (notes from meeting)
1. Jasper County Health Department
Nancy Mason from District. Last Board of Health meeting was discussed. Financial situation at crisis state. Current balance $17,800. That’s all funds Health Department has available. $18,300 payroll monthly. Ability to keep doors open is questioned. We released current office manager; books now run out of Macon office. Released nurse practicioner. Release LPN contract. Release Melba Bridges contract.

Christie (another rep) —Medicaid—3 diff CMO’s for Jasper Co. Billed over $3000 for June and July; rec’d $200. This affects all Health Department’s. Child health, WIC, family planning. We’ve been cut at State program and no additional funds from County.

Nancy—I understand that budget has already been set.
Comm. Bernard—still developing budget for 2007. How much have reserves gone down?
Nancy--$29,000. Comm. Bernard—I recommended that 2nd Env Health person (Melba Bridges) not be budgeted.
Comm. Pennamon—this is first time I’ve heard that they (Health Department) are in trouble. Why hasn’t health board brought to BOC attention?
Comm. Bernard—the books weren’t done by staff correctly. (Note: Question wasn’t answered)
Nancy—when I came in at end of quarter, when monies were moved I realized that there was a $3000 deficit in one of the accts. Auditors in last week—had concerns, very sloppy bookkeeping.
Comm. Bernard--I’m on board of health and I was only one that suggested the fees be raised. Now with budget situation the Board of Health has voted to raise fees unanimously.
Comm. Yarbrough-- asked about fees.
Comm. Bernard-- has said we are up to 600% below surrounding counties.
Comm. Yarbrough-- asked Nancy if had asked City for money.
Comm. Pennamon-- if we went through normal process of budget adoption, we can’t help out if millage rate is already set without budget. Makes us in situation we can’t control. Comm. Yarbrough-all we do is bail out. What’s being done?
Nancy—Macon will do and monitor books. Also looking at fees; but must stay in Medicaid rates.
Comm. Yarbrough—why retire and hire back? Just that salary probably is your deficit.
Nancy—will currently look at current staff and fees. State is holding funds. Can’t get further funding from State.
Comm. Yarbrough –look at City for money.
Comm. Bernard—the Mayor is chairman of Board of Health.
Comm. Bernard—“Health dept minutes have not been accurate for the entire last year. After a while you get tired of it.” Request $80,000+ this year= $25,000 more than last year.
Comm. Pennamon—imperative that BOC review budget requests! By not having opportunity to ask questions, it doesn’t help us. (Note:Comm. Pennamon was one of the Commissioners that didn’t want to go through budget line by line to see what was really being budgeted, for who, for what, how much, etc.)

This presentation lasted 25 minutes.


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