At least 25 health department employees will lose their jobs due to deep budget cuts at the state and federal levels, Dr. Rice Leach, Lexington's health commissioner, said Monday at a Board of Health meeting.
Leach said he hopes to tell specific employees of their fates by the end of next week.
It is possible that about 10 employees cut from the health department could find work with HealthFirst, a recently formed non-profit that is taking over many of the department's clinical services.
The health department, which now has 190 employees, is facing an overall cut of about $2 million in its $14 million budget, he said.
Leach added that more than 25 positions could be cut; his staff is still trying to determine how state cuts will affect Fayette County.
Officials at the state Department of Public Health are finalizing the budget for the 58 public health departments in Kentucky, including Fayette. The new fiscal year begins July 1.
Jill Midkiff, director of communications for Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, said Monday that the Department for Public Health "supplied information to the cabinet budget director late this afternoon." Those numbers were still being reviewed by Monday night.
The governor's 2013 budget was approved in April with an 8.4 percent cut to public health, but it has not been made public what programs in the county health departments will be affected.
Dr. Steve Davis, the state's acting public health commissioner, was quizzed by legislators during budget hearings earlier this spring about the impending cuts.
Public health has taken the brunt of many past cuts in the Cabinet for Health and Family Services' budget. Davis told legislators at the time that he could not say how the 8.4 percent cut would be carried out. Republican and Democratic legislators expressed concern at the time that he could not say how local health departments would be affected.
In Fayette County on Monday, the Board of Health delayed approving its 2013 budget because of the uncertainty. The board instead unanimously approved a one-month budget to cover the beginning of the fiscal year. Leach said the health department has about $1 million in reserve that would cover operations for about 6 weeks. Budgeting, he said, needs to be resolved so the department can start to move forward and focus on its core missions, which include coping with health care emergencies such as an outbreak of a contagious disease like whooping cough or the H1N1 flu outbreak of a few years ago, and food safety issues such as restaurant inspections.
"There is really going to be life after all this is dealt with," he said.
Last year, the Fayette County health department laid off 25 employees and ended funding for the Bluegrass Aspendale Teen Center and the Center for Creative Living, a day program for elderly patients. It also eliminated a program that provided health care to refugees, and it reduced the scope of mosquito spraying in the county.