Fayette County

Fayette Health Dept. laying off 25 workers

Twenty-five employees of the Lexington-Fayette County Health Department will lose their jobs and 19 positions at the Primary Care Center will be eliminated to help offset a $2.1 million deficit in the department's budget, officials said Monday.

Health Commissioner Dr. Rice Leach said employees who are being laid off will be told Tuesday. William North, executive director of the Primary Care Center, said the 19 positions have been eliminated from his budget through attrition and not filling vacancies. No employees will be laid off, he said, although the full-time staff will be reduced from 113 to 94.

The health department has 360 employees and an annual budget of $28 million. The Primary Care Center, which has operated under the health department, provides health services to some 17,000 mostly poor Fayette County residents each year.

Cuts in state Medicaid funding and an increase in expenses, such as the amount of money the department must pay into the state retirement system, have contributed to the deficit, Leach said. The county Board of Health discussed the deficit at a meeting Monday.

The board did not approve the department's 2012 budget because of what North called a "different interpretation" of which part of the deficit should be attributed to the Primary Care Center. The budget Leach proposed shows a $700,000 deficit for the center, but Leach told the board he would work with North to address the disagreement.

The board will meet June 27 to approve an amended budget.

Board member Patricia Burkhart expressed concern that the cuts could hurt prevention and health education services provided to the community.

"It is not a decision taken lightly," Leach said. In addition to cutting employees, the department is cutting services, such as eliminating a program that provides health care to refugees and reducing the scope of mosquito spraying in the county.

The health department announced last month that it would no longer fund the Bluegrass Aspendale Teen Center and the Center for Creative Living, a day program for the elderly patients.

The budget woes come at the end of a difficult fiscal year.

The health department is the focus of an investigation by the state Office of the Inspector General and the Kentucky Board of Pharmacy. Two employees have been reassigned in relation to that investigation.

State Auditor Crit Luallen is examining the department's finances at Leach's request. A federal review concerning an $11.7 million grant to build a new clinic raised questions about how tax dollars are allocated to the department's Primary Care Center. The health department has received about $37 million in property tax money since the city began collecting the tax specifically for the health department in 2005.

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