WINFIELD, W.Va. -- A Kanawha-Charleston Health Department administrator has been appointed to head the Putnam County Health Department until further notice in light of recent financial crisis, officials announced in an emergency meeting Thursday.
Lolita Kirk, the director of administration at Kanawha-Charleston Health Department for the past seven years, will also serve as the senior interim administrator for Putnam County Health Department effective immediately. Kirk has been in public health for 26 years
"My board has been generous enough to allow me to work a couple days per week -- possibly more -- just so I can try and get them back on track again," Kirk said. "Determine what their funding needs are, establish financial polices and procedures, things of that nature."
The Kanawha-Charleston Board of Health offered their help to Putnam County's health department after Putnam County's financial trouble has come to the surface in recent months.
"We have volunteered to help them as a neighbor should help a neighbor," said Dr. Rahul Gupta, executive director of the Kanawha County Health Department.
"We will do a financial assessment, an organizational assessment and go to the drawing board. If a patient comes in ... first, you stop the bleeding, resuscitate and make sure the patient lives. ... We will assess how much we need. Is it more than $186,000? Less than $186,000? See where the bleeding is, put a tourniquet there, without trying to cut services."
Commissioner Joe Haynes, who is a Putnam County Board of Health member, said the trouble stems from a prolonged legal dispute with an employee and excessive clinical services beyond community demand.
The Putnam County Health Department filed an application with the state health department for $186,000 in funding for expenses, but it had to withdraw the application when the state requested additional details with the application deadline looming just a few days later.
The largest chunk of unpaid bills is $80,000 in rent and "associated shared costs," according to officials. The department moved into a new, larger facility in Teays Valley in 2010 in hopes of expanding its services. Instead, the department spent $38,000 in attorney fees fighting a legal battle with a former employee who sued for wrongful termination in 2010 and was reinstated in 2011.