Riverside, California 2021-10-20 17:29:49 –
Corpus Christi and Nueces County will establish separate organizations for public health services by early 2022 after the city council resolves to end the decades-long partnership on Tuesday.
On Tuesday, the city issued a 90-day notice of withdrawal from the Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District. The district was founded about 40 years ago with a business model that Mayor Peter Zanoni described as “obsolete” and inefficient.
During that time, services in the health district will not be interrupted, and the city’s withdrawal will not eliminate the district, Zanoni said. Health districts mainly provide preventive medical services to poor patients, COVID-19 testing and vaccination..
Judge Barbara Canales of Nueces County and Annette Rodriguez, director of public health, told the Caller Times that they did not notify them before the city made a decision.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Mr. Canales said he had not yet received calls from Corpus Christi Mayor Paulette Guajardo, Zanoni, members of the city council or staff. She said she only received a short notice on Tuesday night.
“Given we’re in a pandemic, it’s unbelievable to do this without discussion,” Canales said.
“My priority remains the health and safety of our community,” Rodriguez said in a text to Caller-Times. “I will continue to do my best to protect the community from COVID-19, as long as I am allowed.”
The city council approved a resolution on what to do after leaving an executive session where members discussed legal issues related to the health district.
What is the reason for the city?
Seven cities in Texas, which are more populous than Corpus Christi, have separate health departments and do not participate in health districts, Zanoni said. He added that there are only 15 health districts in the state, mainly in rural areas.
According to Zanoni, some residents of Corpus Christi’s city center had to drive to Robstown to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and other medical services.
“The pandemic happened further revealing that the business model was really broken and dysfunctional,” Zanoni said in an interview.
According to Zanoni, the city’s health department can offer “lower cost and better service” than health districts, and some of the existing services have room for improvement.
“Our community is not 100% satisfied with the medical services provided by the current model, so be more responsive to the community and not waste taxpayers’ money. You can be careful, “says Zanoni.
Some cities in Texas are redefining how medical services are delivered, Zanoni said.
The city-county partnership in the health district was “a problem we continued to address,” said Mike Pussley, a large councilor who was a commissioner for Nueces County from 2009 to 2017. ..
The department’s director “basically answers two different bosses from two different political groups,” said Pusley, who said that city officials in health districts had different salary systems and benefits than county officials.
“We tried to put it together, but it didn’t work,” Pusley said, adding that the city pays “most” of the cost of the health district.
Zanoni said legal issues in the health district were a factor in the decision to withdraw. He said the city could be liable for the costs of proceedings against the health district.
On Tuesday, public records show that the council discussed a proceeding filed in 2019 by former health district employees in an executive session. The employee was dismissed from the health district and claimed to be a victim of age discrimination.
Records show that employees initially sued Nueces County instead of the health district. He later corrected his complaint and nominated the health district as a defendant.
In September of this year, the health district filed a petition to dismiss the complaint due to lack of evidence.
“This is an example of unnecessary costs for city taxpayers,” Zanoni told the Caller Times when the proceedings were resolved by the health district. “Because the district is two different organizations, it is difficult to manage the district’s business. An agreement approved decades ago is a remedy to correct the situation when there is a discrepancy between the city and the county. There is no plan. “
Did you make a public notice?
The city council did not seek public comments before voting for the resolution. However, Mr. Zanoni told Caller-Times that the explanation of the executive session on Tuesday’s council agenda was “very thoughtful to cover all aspects” of the health district, and citizens were in public comments at the meeting. I had the opportunity to comment at noon.
In public comments on Tuesday, no one spoke directly by phone or in writing.
In explaining the executive session on the agenda, the council said it would “consult a lawyer on legal issues” related to the health district. “Various proceedings”; “Other legal issues related to personnel, structure, and / or operation of the district”; and other district-related issues and “potential actions”.
The description did not say that the city was going to withdraw from the health district.
How did the county respond?
Mr. Zanoni admitted that the city did not notify Canales and Rodriguez in advance, but said Canales and others had discussed the treatment of the health district before the pandemic.
Canales said it had proposed to start the meeting in 2019 and invite experts to help resolve personnel issues. She said city and county employees had different holidays and had inconsistent policies on longevity and merit wages.
“The concept was to ensure that we provide the best working environment for public health employees,” Canales said. “In the midst of a pandemic, it’s a slightly different scenario.”
Canales said he had never heard concerns from council members or city officials about the proceedings involving the health district.
When asked about the timing of city decisions while the pandemic was in progress, Zanoni pointed out that daily COVID-19 cases were declining. The daily number of cases in Nueces County exceeds 400 in August, while this month’s average is below 50.
According to Canales, the health district is a “leader among leaders” in COVID-19 testing, vaccination and antibody treatment, thanks to a life-saving city-county partnership.
“We will continue to do that,” Canales said. “For the people of Nueces County, including all the inhabitants of Corpus Christi, not working towards a common goal we shared is truly unthinkable, compassionate and indifferent. We are all together. You can’t do what you did by saying you’re in (Tuesday). “
What is the next step?
Over the next 90 days, the city will develop a new business model for the city’s health sector, evaluate existing programs and decide which programs to continue based on the level of staff.
When the Caller Times asked if they would hold a city hall to get feedback from residents, Zanoni said the city would “hire our healthcare partner agencies and partner healthcare professionals” for feedback. ..
Current employees are allowed to apply for work in the new health department.
Zanoni says that if Nueces County and the health district need more time to coordinate operations, the city will either serve local residents or contract with them to extend the lease of city facilities. I said it would be.
Funding from cities and counties is less than one-fifth of the total budget for health districts. This is because most of it (more than $ 20 million) is funded by grants.
The city budgeted more than $ 3.6 million for health districts from 2021 to 2010, and the county budgeted nearly $ 1.6 million.
“But I don’t think it’s something we can’t handle,” Canales said, saying that the reorganization of health districts would likely require additional costs to the county.
The council’s vote on withdrawal from the health district took place approximately two hours after members approved more than $ 1.5 million in state grants to support the health district’s response to COVID-19.
Zanoni said all district grants need to be considered to determine how the dollar will be allocated between the new city’s health sector and the health district.
Vicky Camarillo covers the topics of Nueces County and Nueces County Government and Enterprises in Texas. See subscription options and special offers at Caller.com/subscribe..
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