Harrisburg – Nurses from Department of Health District Offices and Public Health Centers will be contacting their legislators at the Capitol about the disastrous cuts to the DOH that are included in Governor Corbett’s proposed budget and are the subject of Senate Appropriations committee hearings today at 3:00 p.m.
The Corbett administration has announced plans to close 25 state health centers and to eliminate 73 positions in the Department including 26 Community Health Nurses- a 15% reduction.
“We provide core public health functions including immunizations, counseling, disaster relief and reaching out to our local communities to meet their health concerns. Closing public health centers will especially impact rural communities,” said Sandy Deaver, a Registered Nurse in the South Central District Office.
Aside from their impact on public health, the proposed cuts at DOH appear to violate Act 87 which requires the PA DOH to “provide at a minimum those public health services in effect as of July 1, 1995,” and to not “reduce the scope of services currently provided nor reduce the number of centers.”
Public health spending across the country is threatened if the national budget sequestration takes place, but in Pennsylvania we already rank near the bottom- 41st in public health spending in 2011. According to information based on 2007 data, Pennsylvania ranked dead last in the U.S. for the number of state government health workers per capita, with less than one quarter of the national average
“Pennsylvania is already near the bottom when it comes to public health spending and public health employees. We have been doing more with less for years and cannot see any future cuts,” Deaver said.
Among other functions affected, the closure of more than two dozen health centers may slow down the DOH’s work of monitoring and preventing outbreaks of communicable diseases, a function that depends on timeliness and an intimate knowledge of the affected communities.
“Public health is about monitoring the health status in a community, informing and educating people on how to solve health problems and linking them to the resources they need and assuring provision of those services if they are not available. We don’t just do ‘one and done’ services like immunizations, we do community health,” said Brenda Carll, an RN at the State Health Center in Venango County. “For example, In Venango we were able to tackle a dental health crisis with local partners. This is the community-based work that will suffer when centers are closed down.”
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