Board of Health justifies its request for new positions

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Kathy Chaffin
Salisbury Post
The Rowan Board of Health is asking for six and a half new positions in its 2008-2009 budget proposal to county commissioners.
At least three and a half of the positions will not require any additional county funds, Director Leonard Wood told board members at their April meeting Tuesday night.
The cost of an additional environmental health specialist is projected to be covered by fees generated by the new, state-mandated well program implemented at the beginning of the current fiscal year. Wood said the extra position would reduce the number of visits per full-time employee from six to four.
A new maternity care coordinator position may also pay for itself with Medicaid reimbursement for the services provided. State data from 2007 indicated that Rowan County only provided 45 percent of Medicaid-enrolled women with maternity care services.Smart Start Rowan would fund the cost of a child-care health consultant and a half-time Nutritional and Physical Self-Assessment in Child Care consultant. The positions would not be filled if Smart Start funding is not available.
Other new positions in the proposed budget are a public health nurse, animal control officer and office assistant. The nurse would provide support for positions in preventive health and primary care services, communicable disease reports and followups, immunizations and tracking and timely pap followups.
Wood said the animal control officer is needed due to an increase in the number of service calls ó 13,603 to 15,842 ó and priority service calls ó 2,781 to 4,477. The time required for investigations has also increased by 43 percent.
The office assistant position is needed to increase the Health Department’s immunization tracking levels from its current 63 percent to the state’s goal of 93 percent.Wood said all of the positions are needed. “We wouldn’t be asking for them otherwise,” he said.
Also included in the department’s expansion budget is $65,040 for environmental health software and hardware to reduce the amount of paperwork required to complete forms.
Chairman David Roberts asked Wood if he had any sense of whether commissioners are likely to fund the positions requiring extra county money.
“Not at this time,” Wood responded, adding that he might know more next week after he makes his presentation to Interim County Manager and County Finance Director Leslie Heidrick. He said commissioners probably won’t get the proposed budget until May.
Roberts said, “You may have a lot of rough waters to sail through.”
Wood responded, “We’ve never had rough waters. It’s just either approved or not approved.” The rough waters come when requests are not approved, he said, and department officials have to figure out how to meet the needs.
Commissioners have always been gracious when it comes to budget discussions, Wood said.
Roberts asked Wood to e-mail all the board members to let them know how the presentation goes next week and whether they need to talk to commissioners or attend budget sessions in support of the health department request.
The Health Department’s proposed budget is for almost $6.5 million, up 4.10 percent from the current year. The 2008-2009 fiscal year begins July 1.