County health clinic may get boost
Written by ALEX ASPACHER, Sentinel Staff Writer
Saturday, 21 June 2014 01:45
Even more provider time and patient services will be available at the county's health center after an anticipated 25 percent boost to its federal funding.
Another $184,000 per year is available to the Wood County Community Health and Wellness Center as it make a push to see more patients and offer additional treatment. The clinic, operated by the health district, was recognized as a federally qualified health center last year with a two-year grant that is expected to remain a permanent source of funding as long as its terms for increased clients and services are met.
Officials expect to hear confirmation in September of the additional funding, which is part of a $300 million infusion to FQHCs across the country. A share is meant for each health center and is not competitive, said Ben Batey, CEO, at the June 12 board of health meeting.
"All existing (FQHCs) have been basically given the opportunity to apply for their part of that money," Batey said.
The center was first expected to receive $787,000 this year and $650,000 in 2015. New money brings the total to more than $1.8 million over two years, with an expectation that the health district may now receive about $834,000 annually to operate the clinic.
An application to the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration is due by July 1.
The separate board of the health center will likely have more detailed discussions at its own meeting of how to best appropriate the additional money, which is meant for staffing, such as increased physician hours so more clients can be seen.
"We're just in initial discussions about the kind of services we'll provide with this money," Batey said.
One half might go to additional prenatal care and the other to expanding behavioral and pharmacy services, Batey said. Half of the money must be for increased primary care services.
"It is quite the undertaking because we have to do what we already said we were going to do with the $650,000, and now take this money and add on top of that," Batey said.
Renovations to add more clinic space and improve patient flow were to get underway this week, and the health district is mulling its options for a separate building expansion that would shuffle some of its offices, including the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, which is operating in a makeshift office until permanent plans can be made.
"If anybody wants to come after the board meeting and check out the desolate space and say goodbye to the pink walls, you're more than welcome," Batey said.
Overshadowed by the unexpected resignation of county Health Commissioner Pamela Butler at the end of the meeting was an earlier conversation on the practices and effectiveness of the board.
Board member Frank McLaughlin said he appreciated hearing the health center information and asked for more updates in the future.
"I really don't think that we've been hearing enough about this as we're going along, and I fully support hearing more about it," he said.
Several members suggested communication between district staff and the board must improve, as some items were not reaching members in enough time for them to be prepared to act on those items at the regular meeting.
Updates to the board's bylaws and the health district's personnel handbook were tabled, with board members asserting that they did not have time to review the lengthy documents they received and were thus unprepared to act on them.
Dr. Fleming Fallon, board president, suggested the group conduct two meetings per month instead of one, allowing for more timely action on personnel and contractual items.
An extra meeting would help in processing of employee reimbursement, said Butler, who was present for the discussion but later left after resigning in executive session.
"I don't see why that justifies another meeting," said board member Ron Spoerl.
"I'm thinking the one time a month plus the committee meetings are adequate to do this. You just have to get things around for us on time."
The board agreed over the winter to place more emphasis on and arrange regular meetings for the committee structure, which would prepare members to act when the full board meets.
Members McLaughlin and Richard Strow said that doing so had been helpful, but notification of what will be considered at meetings of the full board must be improved.
"There's nothing worse than going into a meeting and not being able to be properly prepared to discuss the information as necessary," Strow said.
"I just don't feel as though we're getting the information to us fast enough to where we have proper time to look it over and be prepared, and I think that's where we could stand to put a little more effort, is in the preparation time so we are prepared, we know what's going on so that we can take care of business in a timely fashion."
"Our meetings now - as evidenced once again by the fact we didn't get an agenda until a day in advance - we can't be prepared for these meetings. We're being asked to attempt to act on resolutions for things that we haven't seen. This (extra meeting) isn't going to make it any better."
Butler mentioned the possibility of a central location for board members to access documents online, which she suggested could be helpful.
"I know a lot of boards get their documents electronically much more than they do by mail or by delivery."
Fallon said he was not planning a vote on the matter but wanted to bring it for board discussion.
"I'm hearing that you're not real keen on it, and we'll probably put this aside for a little while and see what happens."
Last Updated on Saturday, 21 June 2014 02:58