Health board faces state funding changes
Written by MARIE THOMAS BAIRD/Sentinel Education Writer
Wednesday, 13 March 2013 09:12
The Wood County Health District Advisory Council met Thursday and heard an update on proposed changes in health care funding and policies across the state.
Twenty-three members representing townships, villages and cities within the county attended the yearly meeting.
County Health Commissioner Pam Butler updated those in attendance on proposed changes that have appeared in Gov. John Kasich’s budget bill, most of which are being opposed by the Association of Ohio Health Commissioners (AOHC).
The primary concern, she shared, is a 63-percent cut in funding for local health department support. The proposal would cut state support for local public health care from 0.18 cents per capita to 0.06 cents.
AOHC is asking that full funding be restored, she said.
Butler also said the state wants to shift grant administration to a regionalized format.
There are currently 125 health districts among Ohio’s 88 counties, and the state is saying that is too many. The budget proposes that number drops to eight.
That number — 125 — may be too many, “But they’re local. They take care of their own,” Butler stated.
“If they allow us to join with counties like us, it would be more palatable. If they are
dictating it, it probably won’t be pretty,” she stated.
The bill also requires board of health members to complete eight units of continuing education each year; and requires each health board add an executive officer or medical director of a hospital, thus bumping off a current member appointed by the advisory council.
“They’re really pushing this,” she said.
She said AOHC also is opposed to a recommendation that food inspectors obtain certification from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Butler said inspections currently are conducted by licensed professionals and that having a certification process is duplicative and expensive.
Additionally, starting in July 2014, the Ohio Department of Health will expect local health departments to move toward regional shared service hubs for human resources, payroll processing, information technology and financial management.
Butler contends that health districts should have the flexibility to share services with whomever they please.
She added that AOHC also opposes a provision to require county-level public health planning, saying it’s redundant to the IRS requirement.
AOHC does support the removal of a law that limits cross-jurisdictional sharing opportunities to two or more contiguous health districts. The association also supports multi-county levy authority for public health services.
Butler also advised that all grant funding will be cut by 8 percent over the next two years.
“We don’t know where it will go,” she said about the proposals.
Bill Ault, director of administration, gave an update of the health department’s 2012 budget, which shows $4,013,381 in revenue and $4,379,135 in expenses.
Despite those numbers, Ault assured the audience that the board will end the year breaking even.
One DAC member asked with the current budget, is a 15-percent raise for Butler appropriate when, according to Ault, all other administrators and union members got 2 percent.
“You can’t run an organization without a good leader,” responded Ault. “This health department is in a lot better shape than it was when (Butler) got here.”
If you break it down to the five years she’s been here, that comes to a 3- or 4-percent raise each year, he added.
“I think we need to concentrate on what we do,” said Doug Kale, representing Liberty Township.
At the start of the meeting, he cheered on the work being done by the health board, and advised them to think about every decision they make and do it with transparency.
But by the end of the meeting, he was questioning the board’s decision to give Butler a 15-percent wage increase.
“I’d like to have 15 percent, but it’s not economically feasible” while not knowing what Ohio or Washington will throw at local health departments, he stated,
“The people in the trenches are the ones who win the war in health care.”
He suggested the department keep in mind the taxpayers. “The Wood County Park District did this (gave large salary increases) and they lost support.”
He added, “If you come to the taxpayers in the next 24 months, it’s going to be tough for you.”
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 March 2013 09:14