WINFIELD, WV — The Putnam County Health Department had a rough year in 2013, but officials are optimistic that the agency's woes are behind.
"It was in a bad place, and we're in a much better place now," Putnam County Commissioner Andy Skidmore said.
"We're moving through the issues that were there, and the important thing is that the services are being offered to the residents of Putnam County and they're getting better service now at a cheaper cost to taxpayers."
The issues were financial mismanagement that resulted in the entire staff being laid off on July 1, 2013, and more than $400,000 in debt.
A long-running employment dispute with a former sanitarian, Barbara Koblinsky, cost the department thousands in legal fees. Haynes has said that the former director, Jackie Fleishman, prioritized paying the legal bill over operating costs.
Koblinsky essentially won her case when a judge ordered her to be reinstated to her old job last summer — but by then she didn't have a job to go back to.
All that remains is to determine the amount of back pay the department owes Koblinsky.
Although the department's staff was laid off, Putnam County hasn't been without the services of the health department.
The Kanawha-Charleston Health Department has been providing services in Putnam County since July 1 under the leadership of Lolita Kirk.
"I think we're moving forward in Putnam County," Kirk said. "I enjoyed getting there for our first patient. To be able to provide those services to the community means a lot."
Health departments provide a broad array of services that fall into four categories: clinical services, environmental inspection and code enforcement, epidemiology and threat preparedness.
"We are responsible for administering the public health law for the state of West Virginia," Kirk said. "Between the two counties, it's a very large workload. It keeps sanitarians on the road Monday through Friday — and here lately on weekends and evenings."
It's the job of the health department to inspect restaurants, childcare facilities, schools, hospitals and more.
When the recent chemical leak tainted the water supply in Kanawha and some of Putnam County, it was the health department's job to shut down those businesses and then inspect them again quickly if they wanted to reopen with bottled water.
Putnam County has two full-time sanitarians. Kirk said Kanawha-Charleston was able to hire additional staff, including those two positions, with Putnam County's funding from the state board of health.