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Henry County Supervisors talk public health transition

The Hawk Eye - 11/29/2017

Nov. 29--MOUNT PLEASANT -- The Henry County Board of Supervisors attended the county's board of health meeting Tuesday to discuss the transition of Henry County Health Center back to county jurisdiction.

After about 30 years of working together, HCHC asked the board of health to end their contractual agreement for public health services. This move will not change the public health services and programs offered to county residents.

However, the change will help HCHC reduce costs associated with operating Medicaid non-reimbursable departments. The health center also is looking for ways to trim its net operating budget of approximately $34 million by 10 percent by July 2018, when the next fiscal year ends.

At the meeting Tuesday, the board of health passed a motion agreeing to accept the hospital's proposal to terminate the existing contract no later than June 30, 2018.

Employees from various departments of the health center discussed changes they would have to deal with during the transition.

While supervisor Gary See was not present, supervisors Marc Lindeen and Greg Moeller spoke with the health board regarding its lease of the current building.

Details such as how the IT department will run and which entities will determine when technology needs to be replaced were brought up. A representative of the IT department said it likely will continue to offer the same services to public health as they do for organizations such as the Hy-Vee Pharmacy clinic.

Board of health and HCHC patient information will remain almost entirely separate for confidentiality purposes.

The group discussed other details such as medical waste and cleaning contracts, utility agreements and office and hospital supplies before agreeing to move forward with the lease agreement.

Lindeen said the county plans to move public health to a county-owned property within two years. For the time being, he said the square footage rent rate in place for the center is fair and comparable to other county rented spaces.

Employees will undergo changes in work hours and benefits during this move.

To encourage a smooth transition, the board of health asked employees to inform the county whether they will continue employment with public health and what benefits they plan to sign up for by Jan. 1.

The employees are not under contract to do so, and therefore still may change their minds or leave with the typical notice period.

However, County Auditor Shelly Barber said the county must complete budget information by mid-January, and if she does not have an idea of public health employees' plans, she must budget out the maximum amount of salary and benefits for all positions.

The next board of health meeting will be Jan. 9.

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(c)2017 The Hawk Eye (Burlington, Iowa)

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