Nov. 20, 2013 — The Carter County Board of Health voted Monday night to reverse the decision to close its Olive Hill Health Center.
The action came during a meeting to hear feedback from the public regarding the proposed closure because of a budget shortfall in the Little Sandy District Health Department.
The initial vote to shutter the Olive Hill location was taken on Nov. 4. It was met with a public outcry.
“I know there’s some disagreement as to whether or not we actually did anything wrong. Just the fact that it’s been brought into question makes me think that we need to revisit it,” said board member Willie Patton.
A projected $400,000 budget deficit was cited as justification for the original decision.
An outpouring of citizens and elected officials, mostly from Olive Hill, came to voice their opposition to that decision in meetings on Wednesday and again Monday.
Layoffs, voluntary furloughs, and a recent tax increase have been implemented in an effort to bridge the money gap but recent revelations about the department’s budget paint a dire picture.
“We’re looking at all the clinics being consolidated and there will still have to be layoffs on top of that,” said Janet Cline, a vocal community member present at both meetings.
Adding to the financial woes is the uncertainty of the impact of the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) on services the department will be able to offer in the future.
The new law requires that health departments work to find “health homes” for patients who do not currently have a regular provider.
This mandate effectively phases public health departments out of clinical services. Their function will be to find primary care facilities for their patients who historically have sought clinical care at health departments.
There also are questions about services for which the health department will be allowed to bill under newly-expanded Medicaid.