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Published: Wednesday, 10/12/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

Toledo Health Dept. increases fees

Agency mulls cuts in hours, staff shifts as shortfall looms

BY JULIE M. McKINNON
BLADE STAFF WRITER
'We have to somehow see more people and still give them the same level of service,' says Dr. David Grossman. 'We have to somehow see more people and still give them the same level of service,' says Dr. David Grossman.
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To help trim more than $633,000 for next year, the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department has raised fees for some services -- including the sexually transmitted disease clinic, adult medical visits, and travel immunizations -- and is considering scaling back clinic hours.

No public health programs will be eliminated, however, and layoffs remain at four positions this year. Attrition, shifting people among jobs, and cutting hours will help save money, and two administrators eligible to collect their pension benefits are being asked to consider retiring and then being rehired at 70 percent of pay to save more, said Dr. David Grossman, health commissioner.

Becoming more efficient both in billing Medicaid and delivering services is a priority for the health department, he said.

"We have to somehow see more people and still give them the same level of service," Dr. Grossman said.

The health department next year expects to have more than $7.2 million in expenses and, if the county's budget commission approves a requested 5 percent increase, nearly $6.6 million in revenues. That leaves a shortfall of more than $633,000, a number that could grow -- and require more cuts -- if the budget commission does not approve that pending 5 percent request, Dr. Grossman said.

This month, fees for the STD clinic including medications were raised to $30 from $20, adult medical visits will cost $20 instead of potentially being free, travel immunizations are up to $30 from $20, tuberculosis testing was increased to $20 from $10, birth control will cost $5 a month instead of being free, and patients with insurance coverage will be charged medication co-pays of up to $10.

Hours for school nurses, meanwhile, have been cut back to school hours, and the hope is to make their vacation time coincide with school breaks, Dr. Grossman said. Other moves still under discussion include having the health department's Spencer Township location close every other Friday and holding the downtown Toledo office's STD clinic on three weekdays instead of four, he said.

"We really are looking at keeping all the clinics open and moving people around," Dr. Grossman said.

The Toledo-Lucas County Health Department is not the only one reining in expenses.

Health departments in Wood and Fulton counties have left some positions vacant in recent years to help control costs, officials said. The Wood County Health Department has reduced radon testing in the last couple of years as it assesses services and determines where it can share costs, said Pamela Butler, director.

In Fulton County, funding for a health department program that teaches students about parenting through use of realistic dolls is being shared with schools, said Michael Oricko, commissioner.

"We're taking steps along those lines to work with community partners," he said.

Contact Julie M. McKinnon at: jmckinnon@theblade.com or 419-724-6087.



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