Agency mulls cuts to care
By Wendy Joan Biddlecombe | Hernando TodaySPRING HILL - Hernando County Health Department Interim Administrator Kathleen Sauskojus said Tuesday the department is in the "preliminary" stages of deciding whether to eliminate primary care services.
Published: December 5, 2012
Published: December 5, 2012
The health department, in a collaborative agreement with Nature Coast Community Health Centers, provides multiple services for county patients who qualify, including behavioral health, communicable diseases, dental, diabetes management, family planning, prenatal care and immunizations.
Sauskojus said the department has only had one conversation on the possibility of cutting primary care with a funding agent, and no timeline is in place. Last year, the Hernando County Health Department served about 8,500 primary medical and dental patients.
"The Florida Department of Health has given health departments guidance to refocus attention on core primary health, which does not include primary care," said Sauskojus, adding primary care is usually offered by health departments if similar services are limited in the community.
Sauskojus said the department will "take a look around locally and see if there's potential" for comparable primary-care services.
The health department is a Federally Qualified Health Center, and receives federal funds designated for medically underserved areas. One of the requirements for receiving these funds is providing primary-care services.
Sauskojus said for the health department to stop providing primary care, the department would have to separate from the community health center.
The Hernando County Community Needs Assessments in 2001 and 2006 identified the 34601 and 34614 zip codes as medically underserved, according to a previous story in Hernando Today.
The report found a shortage of primary-care doctors and a high level of uninsured individuals living below the federal poverty line.
Sauskojus stressed the department doesn't plan to move forward until its patients' primary health needs are met.
Last Friday, Philip Spence retired as Hernando County health department administrator. Spence, who had served as permanent administrator since January 2011, increased the reserve funds from 3.2 percent in the red to 6.66 percent in the black.
According to Sauskojus, the Tallahassee office has selected a new administrator and is in the process of approving the candidate, whose name has not been released.
The three finalists are: Leslene Gordon, community health director for the Hillsborough County Health Department; Keith Hunter, assistant director for the Sumter County Health Department; and Robin Wright, administrator for the Putnam County Health Department and interim administrator of the Citrus County Health Department.
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