06/21/06 — County might ask to wait to add nurse

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County might ask to wait to add nurse

By Andrew Bell
Published in News on June 21, 2006 1:52 PM

Wayne County's Board of Commissioners is considering asking the county Health Department to wait another year for additional funding -- and directing $270,000 of that request to other budget line items -- including Wayne Community College.

The health department had asked the county for the money to create an imaging program that would move the department's records to an electronic format as well as $50,000 for an additional nurse.

The commissioners might use that money instead to give an additional $100,000 to Wayne Community College, to correct about $50,000 in budget errors and to add to the county's reserves account.

Health Department Director Jim Roosen said during a June 1 budget work session that the nurse is desperately needed.

Roosen said the department had to turn away 17 people with sexually transmitted diseases in April because there weren't enough nurses to care for them. If a patient with an STD is turned away at the office, the department is required by state law to guarantee care for the patient within 24 hours, which can't be guaranteed with the amount of staff in the department.

The nurse also would have assisted the department in caring for the 20 patients with tuberculosis, any people those patients come in contact with and the other 360 patients the department sees throughout the year, Roosen said.

Wayne County Manager Lee Smith said Monday that he and Roosen discussed the issue and agreed to eliminate the funding. On Tuesday, Roosen said he had recommended eliminating funding for the imaging program, but he was unaware of the nursing position being cut as well.

"I hope that the nurse will still be considered. If not, that'll put us in a bad position," Roosen said.

On Monday, Smith said he cannot make an agreement to add staff to a department. That decision must be made by the commissioners.

Roosen said it would not hurt the department to wait a year to get the new imaging software, since he is expecting to get a new health information system from the state within the year.

Until he sees the new equipment, Roosen said, he will not know what the system requirements will be, making such a purchase premature.

The money cut from the health department's request would, in part, be used at Wayne Community College to offset costs brought about by the college's continued growth.

The two newly constructed buildings at the college will have increased maintenance and utilities costs in the next year, Smith said. Also, the lighting system and some buildings on campus will need repairs soon, so the county is considering providing the college with $100,000. He added that, since the county approves the construction of the college's buildings, the county has an obligation to help with the operating costs.

All other capital project needs for the college could be included in a May 2007 bond referendum being considered for public school facility needs, Smith said.

Another $50,000 originally allocated to the health department will be used to fix mathematical errors in the county's budget process, and the remaining $120,000 will go into the county's reserves fund.

The state requires a county to have a percentage of its budget in a reserve fund to improve the county's credit rating. Wayne County has built its reserve fund to 21 percent of its total budget to prepare for future capital costs, including the schools' facilities needs, Smith said.