Winnebago County Supervisors learned on Tuesday, that there may need to be service changes by the Winnebago County Public Health Department due to financial constraints. Originally, the department thought they were going to receive about $243,000 in funding. As it turns out, the board apparently approved only $50,000 in funding which caught the Health Department completely by surprise. According to Ruth Merchant, head nurse with the department, she was never told about the $193,000 difference.
Now officials with the Health Department are scrambling around trying to figure out how they will meet payroll, and connect with the 117 patients they serve, along with the 24 families involved in the Healthy Families Initiative. The department makes 430 visits per month to all of the patients that they are charged in seeing, by doctors. They also make 50 visits to families each month and make 760 home care aid visits per month where they make sure the patients have the necessary medical assistance at home. Those aren’t the only things that the department handles according to Merchant.
According to the Auditor’s Office, the county has roughly $628,000 in tax money that has to last through the rest of the year. Prior to the health department budget shortfall revelation, the secondary road department received authorization to purchase yet another piece of equipment, this time, $25,000 for a road grader. The board had approved the purchase of a $200,000 new snow removal truck last month. While those items were in the budget for this year, the health department believed they had received the funding that they had asked for.
Area counties that KIOW News spoke with all stated that their health department budget allotments totaled well over $200,000. Those departments are also working under budget constraints, but are able to meet payroll and make all necessary visits. Merchant and her department will have to make some very serious decisions over the next couple of weeks as to what can be done to provide for patients in Winnebago County.