"We should not have to beg for services for our people"
Gaye Bencini, Hickman County Times (reprinted with permission)
County to send formal protest to Dr. Stack's office (State Department of Health) in regard to Purchase District Health Department not providing services for citizens here
By GAYE BENCINI
Hickman County Fiscal Court met Thursday evening, Oct. 21 in the Hickman County Judge/Executive's Office. Present were Hickman County Judge/Executive Kenny Wilson, Magistrates Henry Cole, Irvin Stroud and Kory Naranjo; County Attorney Jason Batts; Dep. Judge/Exec. Dawn Mathis; County Treasurer Amy Crump and visitor Gaye Bencini.
The nurse and clerk who have been working at the Hickman County Health Department for over a year, have quit. The move came following them not being put in the state retirement system as requested and after a pay cut by the Purchase District Health Department.
"We're having some issues up there," Hickman County Judge/Executive Kenny Wilson said last Thursday night during fiscal court health department discussion.
Judge Wilson said after County Attorney Jason Batts sent a letter to the Purchase District Health Department, of which Hickman County is a member, the local department got a nurse and clerk. That was about 15 months ago. He continued, "We were very pleased with those two ladies. They were helpful, they were nice and ran the department well."
The nurse and clerk were hired under contract instead of being hired directly under the Purchase District Health Department. "In other words, they were hired by contract where they would not be put in the state retirement system," he said.
He said both of them recently made a request to the director of the Purchase District Health Department to be put under the state's retirement plan. "We were assured at the local health board meeting, and I was assured at the district meeting, that these ladies would not be asked to take a pay cut."
Judge Wilson continued, "I've got documents here that deal with House Bill 8 and House Bill 129. House Bill 8 states the way that the retirement system is going to go forward, is they want all health departments to put all employees into the statewide retirement system. These ladies made that request, and we thought they would be put on there."
He said one of the women was asked to apply for the job three times. "She finally got tired of fooling with them, and she was also asked to take a pay cut, which we were assured she would not."
Judge Wilson said they receive very little communication from the Purchase District Health Department. He said he called the PDHD and told them the nurse and clerk at the Hickman County Health Department need to be paid fairly and not have their pay cut. He said he was told by the director that if they did that, PDHD would then have to pay more to staff in other offices as well.
Judge Wilson said he replied, "Why not?" He said according to the document of salary adjustments for local health departments, "there's many ways to pay employees a correct and fair wage."
Judge Wilson said both the nurse and clerk, who have been at the Hickman County Health Department for over a year now, have both quit because of this.
"I asked also, twice, that the clerk be trained....We were told that would happen and she was never trained," Judge Wilson said.
Judge Wilson said he's been told nurses from Paducah will now fill in four days a week at the Hickman County Health Department and a clerk will be there on Fridays, but only to answer the telephone.
"While all the other health departments under the Purchase District Health Department banner have nurses five days a week, we just have one for four days a week," Judge Wilson said.
"The sad part about it is, we should not have to be having this discussion tonight," he said.
"We should not have to beg for services for our people, because the Purchase District Health Department is sitting on just a little under $6 million," Judge Wilson said. "Our people are just as important as anybody else's."
He said he was told awhile back by the PDHD, they were sitting on the money due to it being needed in the future for retirement pay.
"But House Bill 8 has given them a way out," Judge Wilson added, spreading out the retirement payments whereas it was originally going to be paid out all at once.
Judge Wilson said he called the State Department of Health to file a complaint. "We're not getting anything here.... We've had complaints from people who call the health department and cannot get shots and cannot get records."
One person had come to the judge's office last week and said they went to the local health department for a flu shot and was told Frankfort had not distributed them yet and did not know when they would get them. However, when they checked in Graves County, there was an abundance. They are also being administered at Clinton Pharmacy, given daily during business hours.
Judge Wilson said the school nurses are not getting the help they desire.
"I'll be honest with you. It seems like we beat this horse to death on a continuous basis, and it's not getting any better," Judge Wilson said.
Magistrate Kory Naranjo said, "We've already lost two good ladies, and if they had been put in the retirement system like they were supposed to, they would probably still be here."
Magistrate Henry Cole said, "I don't know why we don't look for a way out. Graves County is not in this."
Judge Wilson said the local health department board hired a consultant to look at the process of possibly pulling the Hickman County Health Department out of the Purchase District Health Department group. "We sat through a three-hour meeting and were told we could financially do it, but the state is now required to fund three positions for a local health department at $109,000 each. That's $327,000. The Purchase District Health Dept. has McCracken, Ballard, Hickman, Fulton and Carlisle. You take Ballard, Hickman, Fulton and Carlisle, that's $1,308,000.00. Judge Wilson said if they go out on their own and Frankfort starts cutting payments, then "we end up in the same situation we ended up with the jail."
Judge Wilson said the people of the county, through the health tax, are paying right at $100,000 a year to the Purchase District Health Department for services.
Following further discussion, the fiscal court voted to have County Attorney Jason Batts send a letter of protest to the State Department of Health for better care of citizens.
Judge Wilson said the trust had been built back up at the local health department, but as it is, "it's slowly eroding every day".