By Britt Combs | The McDowell News
Published: January 26, 2009
The Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health Dept. intends to halt maternal health services to pregnant clients effective July 22.
According to the Heath Department's Web site, staff members currently "assess, counsel, educate, refer and follow up all patients" and provide instruction on "maternity care and nutritional needs."
A legal notice in Monday's McDowell News announced that will stop in July. The notice adds that after that date, "patients may chose any obstetrician … for their obstetrical care." The notice did not make it clear what, if any, financial assistance the department will provide to those clients.
Buck Wilson, director of the three-county health dept., said the decision was made by the 18-member Board of Health, which includes representation from McDowell, "based on the fact that we are losing money."
Both The McDowell Hospital and the Women's Health Group in Marion provide a good service, he said. Women's Health Group takes Medicaid patients, and the hospital's charter allows them to provide services free-of-charge to those in need.
"We are responsible for making sure services are provided," said Wilson, "and they are available."
He said the elimination of the program would not involve job losses. "We are fortunate in that we have many programs," he said, so that all the personnel would be absorbed into other programs and departments.
"It's not to say that we'll never be in the maternity business again," he concluded, "but with two good providers already operating, three's a crowd."
Joe Holliday, head of the Women's Health Branch of the state Dept. of Health and Human Services (DHHS), said the situation was a mystery to him and is not reflective of any statewide trend.
"What's expected of health departments," he said, "is they have a responsibility to either assume or provide (pre-natal and maternity services) to women below the poverty level."
He added that could mean treatment at the health department or contract services to local obstetricians or by arrangement with a local hospital.
Women in poverty, by law, "will not be charged," he said.
By Britt Combs | The McDowell News
Published: February 17, 2009
Updated: 02/18/2009 08:23 pm
Not everyone in the public health industry is happy with the Health Department's decision to eliminate maternity care services, according to sources in the program.
The announcement of suspension of services came in January from Director Buck Wilson of the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell District Health Department. Services will cease effective July 22, Wilson said. He cited financial concerns and redundancy of services already offered at The McDowell Hospital and private obstetrician/gynecologists in the community as the reasoning behind the move.
Spokespersons at the hospital told The McDowell News they were satisfied with the move and were prepared for the increase in patients. Wilson said the program cut would not bring with it any job losses; that the workers in the program would be transferred to other departments.
But some feel the move is a mistake, one that raises serious concerns about the health and safety of the communities most vulnerable.
A letter received by The McDowell News, the County Commission and other stakeholders objected strongly to the move. Although unsigned, at least two nurses from the Health Dept.'s maternity services program have told The McDowell News the letter is authentic and represents their views.
According to the letter, the nurses were disappointed that employees and medical services providers were not consulted about cost-saving measures that could have helped reduce the financial losses to the program.
"Apparently there has been little or no dialogue between anyone other than the health director and the Board of Health," read the letter, "certainly not those who work first-hand in the maternity program."
The patients who depend on the program, the letter added, will lose access to services beyond just medical care. The program also provides "education and referrals to other needed services, including socio-economic services, including "family planning care, WIC, immunization and cancer screening.
The program reaches a segment of the population that is often otherwise unable to access or unaware of private care options. Without the Health Department's maternity services, the letter said, the risk of incidents of infant mortality, unplanned pregnancy, disease, disability and birth defects increases.
"We realize the McDowell Hospital is willing to see these patients," the letter continued, "but they also require a portion of payment upfront.
"We feel these factors were grossly overlooked in the decision to terminate maternal health," the letter concluded.
The Rev. Bill Dages, a McDowell member of the three-county Board of Health, said he missed the meeting at which the matter was considered. He said he contacted Wilson beforehand and explained he had a family matter that needed his attention.
Dages said he was told the meeting was not vital. He was not informed, he asserted, that maternity care services would be discussed.
"I would not have voted for that," he said. "I was surprised to learn about it."
He said it was clearly a financial decision, and a regrettable one. "It will be a tragedy for the girls and women and children," he said, "and for the whole community." He added that the health of a "whole generation" was at stake.
Tribble, a nurse, said she was asked to recluse herself from the discussion at the fall meeting due to her employment in the health care industry. She was not present for the vote in January.
She indicated the Health Department's relationship with doctors Richard Salsman and Gregory Simolke, who are contracted to provide maternity care to the Health Department, may have led to the board's decision. The doctors withdrew from their relationship with The McDowell Hospital.
This has meant that Health Department patients would have to go to Grace Hospital in Morganton to deliver, said Tribble, which presents a hardship for poor patients and their families.
"I believe the McDowell Health Department should be for McDowell," she said.
Board Member Norman Guthrie likewise was recused from discussion and from the vote, due to his membership on the hospital's board of directors.
"I was asked to recuse myself," he said, "and I didn't have any problem with that."
Paul McIntosh, a board member from Rutherford County, said he voted in favor of the program cut, but referred any further questions to Wilson.
Attempts to contact other board members were not successful.
Salsman and Simolke could not be reached for comment. Their office business manager refuse to be interviewed or make comment.
Requests to Wilson for minutes of the Board of Health's meeting, which members attended the meeting and other documents were referred to the Health Department's attorney. Public records
requests made by The McDowell News in January have not been complied with as of this writing.
Health Dept. attorney Sharon Parker said there would be thousands of documents involved and additional time would be needed.
Since: Mar 09
In all fairness, the health department didn't really do much maternity care. If a woman has Medicaid, there are OB/GYN docs who take it and the health department isn't necessary. There isn't a county doctor who practices out of the health department. It is one of the private practice doctors who do pre-natal care.
New health director described as energetic
By Francis X. Gilpin
The Cumberland County Board of Health has chosen an up-and-comer from western North Carolina to be the new county health director.
Buck L. Wilson, 40, of Rutherfordton, will take over the troubled agency next month (after leaving the McDowell HD a total mess).
The department has dealt with internal dissension (he is a poor people manager - he will tell you what you want to hear and turn around and tell someone else something totally different) and other problems, while the county’s rates of sexually transmitted disease and teen pregnancy have increased.
Wilson said he is aware of the issues.“There’s challenges everywhere,” he said.
But Kim McDonald, chairwoman of the Board of Health, said she thinks Wilson is up to the task.(she was obviously bamboozled -most of us could easily see through his facade)
“We do see him as a young, dynamic individual,” said McDonald.“We need a person that is open to what our employees have to say at the Health Department.”(Don't get your hopes up)
The department has 264 employees and a $17 million annual budget.(OMG- he has only been directly in charge of a few people and he could do a lot of damage with that budget)
Wilson will replace Wayne Raynor, who retired in January.
In an interview Wednesday, Wilson said he was looking forward to his new job.
“Cumberland County is a great place. I’ve learned so many great things about it,” Wilson said.“I’m excited. I’m real excited.”(its closer to the big guys in raleigh)
Wilson said he has resigned the directorship of a public health agency serving McDowell, Polk and Rutherford counties. He has held that position, overseeing a $10
million annual budget, for four years.
Wilson said he expects to start his job in Fayetteville on July 20. His annual salary will be $110,000.
Before directing the tri-county health department west of Charlotte, Wilson was in charge of the Madison County Health Department from 2002 to 2005.
Wilson has a bachelor’s degree in business management from the University of South Carolina in Columbia and a master’s degree in nutrition from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., according to a county announcement.(He does not have a MPH and does not have an understanding of public health - he is business focused)
The Cumberland County Health Department is slated to move into a new $28
million headquarters in November.
McDonald said the department will use electronic medical records more frequently when it gets there.
Wilson has done a lot with information technology wherever he has gone, McDonald said.(You should look at what he's done to the health dept web page) She hopes Wilson seizes the opportunity to keep doing that in the new building on Ramsey Street.
“He’s young (he's forty and never married -women are too smart to hook up with him) and he’s bringing energy,” said McDonald.
McDonald said a search committee received applications from many qualified candidates. County officials interviewed Wilson three times, and he did well in role-playing exercises (like being a puppet), she said.
“He stood out,” said McDonald.
Yes, he did stand out!
I'm so excited my keyboard has been declared a Superfund site and my computer screen needs windshield wipers just to see it!
Needless to say, I'm exhausted and I plan to sleep for 20 hours after I smoke a cigarette.
That was one HOT session of topix posting!
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