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Kanawha-Charleston Health Department handling Putnam clinical services

By Candace Nelson

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Clinical services are no long being offered through the Putnam County Health Department.

Lolita Kirk, who was appointed administrator to the Putnam County Health Department last month, said the most recent building was vacated about a month ago because of overwhelming costs. Kirk has been searching for a new, permanent location to provide clinical services.

"The patients have been coming to [Kanawha-Charleston Health Department]," Kirk said after the Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health meeting Thursday. "We've probably seen about three times the number of clinical patients from Putnam this month than we did, say in May, when they were still open."

"They are getting the services. I'd love for them to be able to get their services in their own community, but at least the services are available."

Kirk hopes to have a temporary location set up through the Putnam County Department of Health and Human Resources within the next week to provide immunizations and other services.

"We have a pause in clinical services until we get a facility to provide some services ... The DHHR has been kind enough to allot us a few cubicles and areas to see patients. Once they get their agreement down here to us, we'll sign it, and get down there working," Kirk said.

Kirk anticipates working out of the DHHR location no more than 30 days. By Sept. 1, she hopes to have a new location for the health department.

Environmental services have not been interrupted, and sanitarians have been in the field every day since July 1.

Kanawha-Charleston sanitarian Keith Lyons has been working out of the Putnam County courthouse to get caught up on restaurant inspections and pool water samples.

 Another sanitarian is working weekends on a contract basis.

Kirk said that once a location is found, it would be advertised heavily. After the location, she wants to reestablish services and set up a full operation -- and increase services inside the community.

"What we want to do is be able to offer not just coming to the Health Department for services, but we pride ourselves on going out into the field -- sometimes to businesses or organizations or community centers. We want to provide those services on site," Kirk said.

Currently, Kirk said the transfer of telephone numbers hasn't been a seamless transition. She hopes to have the Putnam County Health Department number ring to the Kanwaha-Charleston Health Department until a location is found, but that transfer isn't working.

Kirk said it would be fixed within a day or two. Until then, Putnam County citizens can call the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department at 304-344-5243.

Kirk was appointed to the administrator position a month ago to iron out the financial issues. Kirk also is the director of administration at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department, a position she has held for seven years.

In an emergency meeting last month, the Putnam County Board of Health laid off the department's entire staff of 12 employees and voted to provide services through Kanawha-Charleston.

Putnam's yearly $414,000 state allotment will fund that contract.

With that money, Kanawha-Charleston can fill about six full-time positions, including sanitarians, a nurse and a clerical worker.

After six months, the board will re-evaluate the contract and determine whether to continue.

Kirk said the goal is for Putnam to reopen once its finances are stable.

The Putnam board's financial crisis stemmed in part from attorney fees it incurred as it fought a grievance from a former employee. An administrative law judge ordered the employee reinstated in 2011.

Officials also have said the rent at the health department's most recent facility was too high. The department moved into the larger facility in Teays Valley in 2010 in hopes of expanding services.

It now has more than $215,000 in overdue debts.

In other news:

*Brenda Isaac was re-elected president of the Kanawha-Charleston board. She has served since August 2002 and was first elected president July 1, 2011.

*Kanawha-Charleston is encouraging back-to-school clinics for Kindergarten to college. Seventh-graders and high school seniors are required to have Tdap and Meningococcal vaccines. Bring all vaccine records to the vaccine clinic. For a registration form, cost and insurance information, visit www.kchdwv.org.

Clinics are available 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Aug. 7, 8 to 11 a.m. Aug. 8, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 9, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Aug. 12 and 8 to 11 a.m. Aug. 13.

* The board has also won a Dr. Marie Fallon Leadership Award from the National Association of Local Boards of Health for its work in leadership within the community. Isaac said it is the only local board of health to receive this award.

Contact writer Candace Nelson at Candace.Nelson@dailymail.com or 304-348-5148. Follow her at www.twitter.com/Candace07.


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