Tuesday, Oct 23, 2018
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Health department clinical services to cease this month

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Patients who use the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department clinics for primary care soon will have to look elsewhere, as the department ends several medical services at the end of the month.

In a letter to more than 6,000 patients, health department officials outlined which services will cease and where patients can go in the meantime, while the health center board — a separate entity from the health department board — works to secure another provider to partner with long term on a planned site in East Toledo. 

“The two immediate next steps are ensuring that our current patients at the health department are taken care of — especially those with chronic illnesses — and making sure the site in East Toledo is opened as soon as possible,” said Jennifer McCloskey, project director and interim CEO of the health center.

The center’s board chose to join with Health Partners of Western Ohio after receiving advice from federal officials that the health center would be more successful partnering with an existing provider rather than strike out on its own.

The new location will open at 2020 Starr Ave. as soon as mid-July, pending federal approval.

In the meantime, officials are directing patients to the future East Toledo location or other nearby health care providers, including Compassion Health Toledo, That Neighborhood Free Health Clinic, and Nexus Health Care.

“We are sorry about the problems this will cause you,” read a portion of the unsigned letter. “The health center board of directors is working hard to arrange on-going care for you and your family.” 

Patients can request prescriptions for chronic conditions until they find another health care provider by calling 419-213-4026. Those seeking to transfer their medical records to another provider should call 419-213-4209.

Family practice, pediatrics, prenatal, women’s health, and dental services will no longer be offered through the health department. The department will retain its sexually transmitted disease clinic, immunizations, tuberculosis testing, and mobile vision clinic.

Joe Dake, president of the health center board, said he expects news on the federal approval for the East Toledo site before July 1. 

Later this year officials will apply for the federal grant previously held by the health department to keep Health Partners of Western Ohio here permanently, with plans to open two or three more locations in the Toledo area. 

“If we're considering what's really in the patients’ best interest, going with a strong, established [federally qualified health center], it will provide high quality care instantly rather than having to build it up,” Mr. Dake said of the decision to partner with Health Partners.   

As expected, the closings have prompted layoffs. The health department board approved eliminating 33 positions related to the health center.

In a document outlining the rationale for the layoffs, Health Commissioner Eric Zgodzinski said eliminating the 33 positions will save more than $160,500 in wages and benefits for the rest of 2018, more than $995,500 in 2019, and nearly $1.4 million in 2020.

About $1.4 million of the department’s budget in 2017 was spent on the health center, which operated at a more than $677,000 deficit last year. 

Of those, 18 employees will leave as layoffs, and those in the remaining positions will stay on at the health department, retire, or move to other employers, department spokesman Shannon Lands said. Among the eliminated positions are dentists; dental assistants and hygienists, and medical assistants.

When announcing in February that the clinical services would end, Mr. Zgodzinski estimated the number of layoffs at nine to 15.

Contact Lauren Lindstrom at llindstrom@theblade.com, 419-724-6154, or on Twitter @lelindstrom.

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