Struggling health department asking for more staff

first_img Ector County Health Department Director Gino Solla looks over a report in his office.  Virgin Coco MojitoTexas Fried ChickenSmoked Bacon Wrapped French Vidalia OnionPowered By 10 Sec Mama’s Deviled Eggs NextStay Local NewsGovernment Struggling health department asking for more staff By admin – May 20, 2018 WhatsApp Twitter Previous articleGEEK: Touchpad sensitivity an ongoing problemNext articleCOMMUNITY CALENDAR: Week of May 20, 2018 admin RELATED ARTICLESMORE FROM AUTHOR Facebook Church leaders condemn mayor’s disparaging comments Home Local News Government Struggling health department asking for more staff Twitter Pinterest Ector County Health Department Director Gino Solla. Pinterest Facebook Ector County Health Department Director Gino Solla talks to a visitor in his office.  1 of 3 Ector County Health Department Director Gino Solla looks over a report in his office.  Ector County Health DepartmentOne day last month, Ector County residents seeking preventative care arrived to the county’s Health Department Building to see a sign on the front door: “Clinic closed today.”The clinic at 221 N. Texas Ave. couldn’t open that day, Health Department Director Gino Solla said, due to the department’s only two nurses both being out. Solla said this is the first time in his 15-year tenure as director he has had to close the clinic for an entire day.“I don’t have the license of a nurse that I can grab a syringe and start giving vaccines,” Solla said. “When the nurses are not here, close down the clinic. We’re out of business.”Closures are a recurring problem for the department, often having to close their clinic several hours early due to the lack of staff, and with the amount of people that come to the Health Department’s clinic; the wait can be quite long for those who do come for care. Landgraf staffer resigns following investigation WhatsApp The small staff of the department is the result of several years of budget cuts by county commissioners in a struggling local economy. In 2015, the health department had a budget of $1,695,725. Over a period of two budget cycles, that number was cut down to $1,351,242, around a quarter of their budget.With those budget cuts came staff cuts, Solla had to cut four full-time positions, bringing the department staff down from 15 to 11, including himself. That included two of their full-time nurses, leaving only two left.The primary function of the Health Department is to prevent and contain the outbreak of communicable diseases. Unlike the Ector County Hospital District, which treats people once they become ill, the health department tries to prevent the illness in the first place. Those who come to their clinic are there for vaccine shots, STD screenings, or tuberculosis testing. The clinic is particularly important to those who are struggling financially.“We are the safety net for people that don’t have health insurance or a means to pay,” Solla said. “If someone comes in and says ‘I don’t have the financial resources,’ we waive our fees.”But if budget cuts to the department continue, Solla is worried those functions may not be possible.“I don’t see where we can cut anymore without cutting services,” Solla said. “The commissioners will have to decide if they want to continue to provide clinical services from the Health Department.”And some staff members have been quitting out of frustration with the limited budget, Solla said. A long-term sanitarian, who handles duties such as restaurant and pool inspections, left abruptly around three weeks ago, and the office manager will be leaving the department soon after 26 years of working there.“They’re tired of not being able to give the citizens their services,” he said. “We’re giving them lip service instead of services.”With discussions for the next budget year beginning Tuesday, Solla said he has some proposals for expanding the department he plans to bring forward to the commissioners’ court. He plans to ask the court for another sanitarian position, a part-time secretary, and two more full-time nurses.Solla said he’s hoping that due to the recent increase in oil prices and land value, there will be more revenue available to prevent any further budget cuts.County Judge Ron Eckert said it is too premature at this point to say exactly what will be done to the department budgets, but that options will be explored throughout the numerous budget hearings. Eckert said they have not received any final certified values, but based upon preliminary values, there should be an increase in tax dollars and revenue, but not considerably more.“We haven’t reached the full extent of the boom cycle yet, and there’s catch-up time for values to catch up with the economy,” Eckert said.With the decrease in staff, came an increase in communicable diseases. Health Department records show that from 2011 to 2017, patients seen for sexually transmitted diseases increased from 866 to 1,328. The number of Ector County residents with sexually transmitted infections increased from 558 per 10,000 people in 2012 to 726.3 per 10,000 people in 2017.And with the staff cuts, Solla said they had to turn away around double that amount of patients. Solla attributed this increase in patients to the closure of Planned Parenthood in Odessa in 2011, which provided STD testing and contraceptives.“I believe the Texas legislators made a big mistake when they cut funding to Planned Parenthood,” Solla said, “because Planned Parenthood was our savior in collaborating with us in fulfilling that need.”Solla said he hoped Ector County residents would pass the sales tax assistance district whenever it next comes up for election, which would create a new 1.25 percent sales tax on goods sold in unincorporated Ector County. Officials estimate it would raise around $15 million a year, more than a quarter of the county’s $59 million expenditure budget.“I feel that will help us not only expand, but help us catch up to the growth that the county is experiencing in new residents,” Solla said. Landgraf prepares for state budget debate last_img

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