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Health department gets small budget increase for big tasks

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The Pitt County Board of Health discussed the newly-approved 2018-19 fiscal year budget Tuesday at its scheduled meeting. Dr. Keith Ramsey, right, is the board chairman.


By Michael Abramowitz
The Daily Reflector

Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Pitt County Health Department is seeking to fill vacancies at several positions and has made a big investment in its new electronic health records system, Dr. John Morrow, the county public health director, told county health board members on Tuesday.

His report took place during the board’s monthly meeting at the health department in Greenville.

There were no adjustments made following the $11.77 million public health budget request submitted to the Pitt County Commission in April and approved last week, Marsha Hall, the health department’s administrative officer, said in her fiscal report to board members.

Through May, the health department is managing the current fiscal year budget with a $649,220 adjusted surplus, Hall said. 

The new budget includes $3.76 million in projected state and federal revenues, $5.15 million in Pitt County revenues, $1.59 million in fees and charges, a $734,181 fund balance and $527,680 in miscellaneous revenues, including donations and contributions — some of which have not yet been received.

“We actually have a decrease in the fund balance from the budgeted $884,000 this current year,” Morrow said. “We’ve been budgeting fund balance for a number of years, but we haven’t spent any of that until this year when we bought the new EPIC (electronic health records) system for $238,000.”

Expenditures included in the fiscal year 2019 budget include $9.01 million for salaries and associated expenses and $2.732 million in operating expenses, Hall said.

Pitt County increased the department’s appropriation by $349,371 in the budget, including a total of $216,000 for performance-based personnel salary increases, $81,000 for annual EPIC system maintenance and an additional $51,300 to be added to a $90,000 contract dentist position to recruit a staff dentist.

“I’m not sure we’ll find someone with that, but we’re trying,” Morrow said.

The health department carries 131.5 full-time-employee equivalent positions, the same as last year, Hall said. There are 14 vacancies in the department that the county commission has approved to be filled. Included in those slots is a full-time nutritionist post that has been upgraded from a part-time position.

In other board of health business, Shayla Hayes was introduce as the health department’s new health educator for sexually transmitted infections.

Hayes, who earned her bachelor’s degree in public and community health at East Carolina University, came to the department from Albemarle Regional Health Services where she worked in chronic disease prevention and education. Hayes will work with community partners, including the Pitt County AIDS Service Organization (PiCASO), to develop strategies for the health department to elevate its evidence-based community intervention and prevention efforts.

“Right now, I’m learning about the community and getting a feel for its needs and how we can best serve them,” Hayes said. “I’m very excited about the work ahead and grateful for this opportunity.”

Hayes compiled a list of barber shops throughout the area and has been talking with men about increasing their participation in the county’s community needs health assessment, used to determine Pitt’s top public health concerns and priorities, from which intervention plans and programs are developed.

Morrow said the department likely will seek public input on what tactics might be effective to raise awareness about sexually transmitted diseases. Awareness is important, he said, because rates for some diseases — such as chlamydia — are alarmingly high in eastern North Carolina, according to the state’s 2016 surveillance report.

“We don’t really have a handle on why that is so high, but I think it might be good to ask our public what intervention ideas would be most effective here in Pitt County,” Morrow said. “I think it also would add to raising awareness of the problem.”

Contact Michael Abramowitz at mabramowitz@reflector.com or 252-329-9507.