The Harlan County Board of Health is considering separating from the Cumberland Valley Health District. During a meeting on Thursday, Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop introduced a motion to the board to withdraw from the district.
“Today I talked to judge Albey Brock (Bell County Judge-Executive),” said Grieshop. “He said the Bell County Board of Health spoke about working with us and they agreed to do that if we chose to work with them. They’re actually excited, because we’re their neighbors and I’ve told you before they’ve done well since they’ve separated.”
According to Grieshop, separating from the district and working with Bell County is the better path for Harlan’s health department.
“I think it’s a better direction for us to go,” said Grieshop. “They’ll probably try to dispute it, but I read the papers. The papers I trust, words I don’t trust at this moment.”
Board Treasurer Leo Miller seconded after Grieshop clarified his motion to state a feasibility study be required before the board could separate from Cumberland Valley Health District.
The board then held a lengthy discussion concerning the ramifications of separating from Cumberland Valley Health District.
Board Chairman Dr. N.S. Guy said he had some concerns he wanted to address before making a decision.
“If we decide that we’re going on our own, we’ve got to take care of this building, we’ve got to take care of our employees… everything is going to be on this board to take care of. We’ll be on our own. If the money’s not there, then we’re going to answer for it,” said Guy.
Guy said he was not arguing for or against separation, but playing the “devil’s advocate.”
“I’m not sure Bell County is a total case study yet because they’ve only been on their own for about six or seven months and that’s hardly a model for us to go by,” said Guy. “Again, I’m being the devil’s advocate, I’m not saying that we need to go or stay.”
Grieshop said that all members of the Harlan Fiscal Court had spoken with the Bell County judge-executive one on one, and had voted unanimously to support a decision for withdrawal.
“I’m saying right now I trust my leadership over their’s (Cumberland Valley Health District). I feel that strongly about it. And I trust Brock’s leadership over their’s,” said Grieshop.
Several board members said they needed more information concerning feasibility before making any decision.
Cumberland Valley Health District Interim Director Lynette Renner pointed out problems with managed care organizations not paying money owed had led to the district’s staffing and financial issues.
According to Renner, it’s not just the Cumberland Valley Health District that has been impacted by the managed care organizations not paying their share.
“When the CEO’s of the hospitals came forward to talk… they said our problem is that the managed care organizations are breaking our organizations,” said Renner. “They are bankrupting our hospitals. Small hospitals are at risk of closing their doors.”
Grieshop stated that Bell County faces those same issues.
“They are not furloughing their people like you are,” said Grieshop. “They are on solid ground.”
Renner said that the district was still working through Bell County’s finances.
“Bell County left last year, but it’s going to take almost until the end of this fiscal year before business with Bell County is completely done,” said Renner.
According to Renner, Harlan must give the district three months notice before pulling out.
“Whatever decision is made here, I have the greatest respect for our staff and the warmest regards for everyone that I have worked with here,” said Renner.
After more discussion and hearing from several employees in attendance, Grieshop tabled his motion in order to give the board time to collect information concerning the feasibility of separation from Cumberland Valley Health District.
The board approved Miller’s motion that the board contact an expert concerning a feasibility study and any other questions the board may have concerning separation.
Reach Joe P. Asher at 606-573-4510 or firstname.lastname@example.org