Health & Medicine

Health Department meeting again to address personnel, organizational concerns

Health officials will discuss personnel issues and the organizational structure of the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department on Tuesday at the fifth special meeting to be called in 11 days concerning the troubled agency.

Mayor Jim Gray worked during the weekend with health officials to come up with a solution to ongoing problems at the health department, said his spokeswoman, Susan Straub. The mayor and the chairman of the Lexington Board of Health, Dr. John Roth, agreed that quick action was necessary, Straub said, but she declined to comment further.

Gray met with representatives from the state Board of Health, the local Board of Health and members of the Primary Care Governing Council, which overseas the Primary Care Center, she said.

At previous meetings, employees complained of an organization in crisis, horrible working conditions and the mismanagement of money.

The first several meetings were prompted by the suspension with pay of William North, executive director of the Primary Care Center, by Dr. Melinda Rowe. the health commissioner. No reason for the suspension was made public, and North was ultimately reinstated.

The Primary Care Center, which serves 17,000 mostly poor patients a year, operates under the umbrella of the health department. The department, which has 360 employees, has a $28 million tax-funded budget. Rowe has been commissioner since 2003.

Management problems are just one challenge facing the health department. On Friday, health officials confirmed that two primary care employees — chief operating officer Kyle Black and the head of the pharmacy, Surinder Sabharwal — were reassigned late last year because of an investigation by the state Board of Pharmacy and the Cabinet for Health and Family Services' Office of Inspector General.

Health officials also are searching to find land on which to build a medical center in order to keep an $11.7 million federal grant.

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