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Layoffs hit some county health units harder than others

Department of Health lists of employee layoffs by county show a big difference in the effect on local health units of the Legislature's funding cuts.

Some counties are laying off a dozen or more employees, while others are not eliminating personnel at all, instead ending certain services, such as flu clinics. The lists -- one for state employees, the other for those on temporary contracts -- don't include some counties, since they reflect layoffs of personnel accomplished or identified as of Aug. 10.

The biggest change, at least on paper, appears to be at Hillsborough County Health Department, which is losing more than 100 employees on Sept. 1. But the patients and employees really aren't taking a hit at all, the department says.

That's because six primary-care clinics the health unit offers to children and pregnant women are being transferred over to two non-profit organizations that already operate similar facilities around the county, according to a press release.

"Patients are still going to be seen in the same place, by the same people," said Ryan Pedigo, director for public health preparedness for the Hillsborough department. "All our staff were offered positions."

It wasn't clear this morning whether staff titles and pay will be the same. Pedigo said he didn't know, and other officials from the department were out of the office today, supervising vaccination clinics.

The non-profit organizations that are taking over clinical and administrative duties, Tampa Family and Suncoast Community Health Centers, already run a total of eight local clinics around Hillsborough County, with similar services.

The health department will still operate its WIC program (Women, Infants, Children) nutrition program out of the clinics, according to the release. And the department will continue programs in immunization, tuberculosis, HIV and sexually transmitted diseases.

Not all counties are making cuts without layoffs, as the lists show. After Hillsborough, the counties with the highest number of employee reductions reported as of Aug. 10 were Osceola, Marion and Broward.

As the Sun-Sentinel reported Tuesday, at least 60 people in the Broward and Palm Beach health departments face layoffs, most of them in Broward. Collier County is laying off 25 employees as of next Monday, the Naples News reported today. An additional 26 positions were eliminated.

But the Herald reports today that Miami-Dade plans to lose only its seven-member Rodent Control Team.

The lists of layoffs were released to Health News Florida late Tuesday by DOH Press Secretary Jessica Hammonds, along with a statement that said DOH took a total budget reduction of $55.6 million during the legislative session.

Counting the central office, DOH is eliminating 229 full-time job positions, of which 172 are from county health departments, she wrote. The Legislature specified that certain programs were to be reduced, she wrote.

"We need to right-size our organization and to operate within our budget," Hammonds wrote. "We will continue to seek ways, through streamlining and process efficiencies, to protect and promote the health of Florida’s residents and visitors."

Hammonds provided a breakdown of DOH’s state budget reductions:

Central Office:
Administration in the central office in Tallahassee: $775,143
Information Technology: $2,123,585

Family Health Services:
Administration: $432,353
Contribution to County Health Departments: $1,389,307
Family Planning: $906,984
Healthy Start: $5,400,000
Vision Quest *10/11 restored as Non-Recurring :$250,000

Infectious Disease Control:
Contribution to County Health Departments: $2,449,847
(includes Immunization, HIV/AIDS, STD, Epi, TB, AGH)

Environmental Health Services:
Administration: $243,347
Contribution to County Health Departments: $884,654
Birth Defects Registry: $56,283

Statewide Support Services:
Administration: $1,947,898
(includes Labs, Pharmacy, DEMO, PHN, Vitals)

Community Health Resources:
Administration: $181,104
Contribution to County Health Departments: $21,255
Area Health Education Centers (AHEC): $4,801,743

Children’s Medical Services:
Administration: $2,018,059
CMS Network: $396,002
Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD): $100,000

County Health Departments:
County Health Departments: $29,737,488
Community Health Initiatives: $107,140
Manatee Rural Health: $7,717

Disability Determinations:
Administration: $74,714

Carol Gentry, founder and special correspondent of Health News Florida, has four decades of experience covering health finance and policy, with an emphasis on consumer education and protection.