Health Board deals with budget revisions

Published 8:44 pm Tuesday, November 18, 2008

At Tuesday’s meeting of the Decatur County Board of Health, budgetary matters were a major topic of discussion.

As with many departments that rely heavily on grants and state funding, the health board has been forced to accommodate their budget in accordance with the governor’s state-wide budget cuts.

At the meeting, Carol Williams, financial operation service manager for the district, discussed the revisions made to the 2009 budget as a result of the 6 percent cut mandated by the state.

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The revision resulted in a budget cut of $60,721, or a total budget decrease of 6.14 percent, decreasing from $989,063 to $928,342.

Areas of the department’s budget affected by the revision include salaries (-3.22 percent), Federal Insurance Contributions Act (-3.22 percent), retirement (-3.22 percent), health insurance (-30.10 percent), supplies (-18 percent) and other operations (-33.33 percent). The cuts includes a 2-1/2 percent salary increase that was originally budgeted for 2009 being removed.

Responding to questions from the board, Williams addressed changes in services provided by the Decatur County Health Department.

She spoke about the changes to the Public Health’s adult vaccine program, which relies on state monies.

Health departments in the Southwest Public Health District (which includes Decatur County) will no longer be able to purchase and stock many vaccines without being able to bill for them. As a result, many vaccines will not be on hand at health departments.

Specific changes include state-supplied vaccines such as tetanus-diphtheria (td), tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis (Tdap), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B being provided only for patients who are uninsured or ineligible for Medicaid and Medicare; Twinrix (Hepatitis A and B combination vaccine), Polio and Haemophilus influenzae type B (Hib) no longer being state supplied for adults; and Pneumovax/23-valent pneumococcal polysaccharide vaccine (PPV23) no longer being state supplied for adults unless they are HIV infected or receiving HIV care services.

Williams said the level of service will not currently be affected as the district is maintaining with roughly $500,000 in reserves that should last around four months.

“Before cutting services we want to use our fund balance [reserves],” Williams said.

When funding gets tight, she said the district is recommending and looking at implementing more furloughs as opposed to layoffs. She said in order to keep the same service level when funding runs out, health departments may be forced to start reducing staff, which will in turn call for a delay of services for the public as departments work to pick up the slack with smaller staffs.

Although fiscal troubles are expected to get worse going into 2010, she is hopeful the economy will bounce back in 2011 saying, “We should bounce back.”

The health department did not receive a budget cut from Decatur County, but they were hit hard by a 10.83 percent decrease in grants in aid this year.

Giving an update on the Southwest Public Health District was Jacqueline Grant, District Health director. Grant explained that health departments are at a critical juncture as the slow economy draws more people in while at the same time funding and budgets are decreased. In response, she said many counties have been searching for local businesses they can provide health and wellness programs to bring in needed income to health departments. She also said the district received 501(c)(3) Internal Revenue status to help receive grants and donation.

Grant informed the board on a letter, endorsed by several counties in the state, to be sent to legislators asking for a merging of health districts. The change would reduce the 18 health districts in Georgia to 10. She said similar mergers have occurred in other divisions of the Department of Human Resources, but she warned about a merger costing more at the county level, the need for a billing/critical data software change and a possible decrease in oversight (audits, protocol following, etc.). Grant also noted she would not be seeking a position as director if a merger occurred, saying it would be difficult to be effective and do that job well. The board approved the request for a copy of the letter to be sent to them for review.

In other business:

• Thea Burke, public health nurse specialist, received the Customer Service Award for her work on the Hooked on Health committee.

• Palmer Rich, Decatur County Board of Commissioners chairman, updated the board on the Decatur Seminole Service Center, which he said is now under Georgia Pines and has not lost any clients.

• Sherry Hutchins, nurse manager, gave an update on the status of repair and maintenance performed on the Health Department building saying the work was satisfactory and stayed within budget.

• The board approved the policy development of a proposed body art studios and tattoo/body piercing artists fees to got before the Decatur County Board of Commissioners for approval. Fees include $100 for plan review for construction (floor plans, equipment specifications for compliance, etc.), $25 permit application fee, $150 body art/piercing studio annual fee (for two routine inspections), $50 annual fee (annual operational fee, bi-annual review of requirements and qualifications for artists), and $50 temporary artist fee (for guest artists for three consecutive months on temporary permit).