A usually routine matter of letting the Cincinnati Health Department apply for a federal grant will likely be anything but routine this time.
The agency wants to use the money to open two more health clinics in the city. Right now it has five.
Mayor John Cranley and some council members are concerned about the budget impact that will have on the city.
“With everything going on in our budget, do we really want to decide willy-nilly to take on two more clinics with unknown financial consequences,” Cranley said. “It is not credible in my mind that these two clinics are not going to cost us money on an ongoing basis. But that is what the health department is claiming right now.”
There are also allegations the city's health department played a role in the closing of Neighborhood Health Care in December. It shut down four clinics and three school-based programs after losing federal dollars. Some council members say that left 20,000 people looking for health care.
There is an October letter from a city health department official to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services objecting to a plan to merge Neighborhood Health Care with HealthPoint Family Care in Kentucky. The city official was concerned about an out-of-state agency providing health care in Cincinnati when other in-state organizations could have provided such services. Neighborhood Health Care said the merger was needed for financial reasons.
Council Member P-G Sittenfeld urged restraint.
“We live in a society of innocent until proven guilty and our health department does a lot of tremendous work,” Sittenfeld said. “I want to be careful with the tone.”
Council's Budget and Finance Committee will discuss the issue Monday. The deadline to apply for the grant funding is next Wednesday.