By Joe Lewis - Staff Writer
Nov. 14, 2013 — The Little Sandy Health Department’s Board of Directors held its monthly meeting Wednesday night before a standing room only crowd at the Carter County courthouse.
An outpouring of citizens and elected officials, most from Olive Hill, turned out to voice their opposition of a recent decision by the County Board of Health to close the Olive Hill satellite clinic.
Board chairperson Dr. Kari Shields outlined a financial decline in the health department that she says dates back more than two years.
She elaborated that staff cutbacks, voluntary furloughs, and a recent tax increase were all implemented in an effort to turn things around, but recent revelations about the department’s budget paint a more dire picture than originally thought.
“We have very recently become aware of some changes in the budget that we didn’t have knowledge of beforehand,” said Shields.
“The budget was misrepresented,” she added when pressed for more information.
Board members declined to specify in what way the budget figures had been misrepresented or who was responsible for the alleged fabrication.
A projected $400,000 budget shortfall is the primary reason behind the county board’s decision to close the Olive Hill satellite clinic.
Both Shields and clinic staff indicated that the financial situation is so desperate that, by the end of the year, the health department is in danger of not being able to meet its payroll obligations.
The board referenced data suggesting the Olive Hill facility wasn’t being utilized enough to justify keeping it open. Some in attendance suggested that data may not be accurate.
“The numbers were down because we didn’t have providers in the clinic those days,” said Gloria Rayburn, a staff member at the Olive Hill clinic.
“It looks to me that, by design, you are trying to close the facility that actually has the greatest need,” added Richard Short.
Shields went on to mention the recently enacted Affordable Care Act as another upcoming financial hurdle, as it is unclear what types of services the health department will actually be able to offer under the new law.
Changes to Medicaid law also forced the health department to remove nurses from Carter County schools last year, because they lost the ability to bill for school-related services.
The Little Sandy District board is comprised of several members who also sit on the County Board of Health, and those members agreed to call a special meeting of the county board to hear proposals from the public on ways to potentially keep the Olive Hill clinic open.
That meeting will take place on Monday, Nov. 18 at 6:30 p.m. at the County Courthouse
Barring a last-minute reprieve, the Olive Hill branch of the health department is set to close on Nov. 27.
Joe Lewis can be reached at email@example.com or by telephone at 286-4201.