By DAN GUZEWICH Staff writer
Much of the downsizing planned at the Oneida County Health Department by July 1 won’t take place.
Requests have been submitted to the Board of Legislators to restore nine positions in the Public Health Nurses program and another six slots in the Community Wellness program. Funding for them was to run out June 30.
When County Executive Anthony J. Picente Jr. proposed this year’s budget he anticipated that several services provided through the Health Department would be turned over to outside providers by 2012’s halfway mark, thereby lowering costs to the county. Affected services were to include immunizations, sexually transmitted diseases, refugee health evaluations, and expectant and new mothers.
There was opposition from some Health employees. The optimal projected savings to the county was in the neighborhood of $350,000.
Now, however, a partial reversal of this strategy is in the works. Picente is not giving up on the concept of outsourcing where possible to gain efficiencies.
"We’re still in the process... it’s just taking longer," he said.
As the county and state Health Department discussed the county’s plans after the $360.5 million budget was approved, several issues arose. Some services offered by the county, like immunizations, cannot be contracted out under state health law. Also, some of the proposed changes won’t be made because it wouldn’t be cost effective due to the responsibility and oversight retained by the Health Department.
In another instance, a qualified contractor could not be lined up by July 1 to provide certain Maternal and Child Health services. As a result, the department is taking steps to contact other agencies in the county to weigh their interest in handling home visits.
The costs of restoring the positions and associated expenses to support the programs that will continue under county jurisdiction total $913,573.
"Fortunately, there are funds to cover this additional funding until the end of the 2012 budget year," said Picente.
Funding sources include reimbursements and state aid, as well as pulling $285,160 from a contingency health insurance account.
Some reorganization of the Health Department is occurring, notes Health Director Gayle D. Jones. Already moved out of the department’s daily responsibilities was refugee health assessment, in March. Pending is the takeover of required immunizations for people traveling outside the country — a change expected no later than August.
Additionally, an employee health program was discontinued in March.