Furloughs and other cost-saving measures announced by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) statewide will likely impact clinical services at the Pottawatomie County Health Department.

Furloughs and other cost-saving measures announced by the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) statewide will likely impact clinical services at the Pottawatomie County Health Department.

Due to an estimated budget shortfall of more than $10 million dollars, the Oklahoma State Department of Health announced plans Wednesday to reduce spending; the agency is experiencing revenue shortfalls due to loss of federal funds, increased costs of providing services and reductions in annual state appropriation.

“Since federal funds are nearly 60 percent of the OSDH budget, reductions in federal funds at the same time we are experiencing state budget shortfalls make for a perfect storm,” Julie Cox-Kain, OSDH Senior Deputy Commissioner, said.

Among the cost-saving measures are furlough days.

Starting with the Oct. 30, 2017, pay period, OSDH personnel will be furloughed one day without pay during the two week cycle. Employees making $35,000 per year or less will not be furloughed, but all other personnel will be subject to the furlough.

The October 30 effective date is required by law to provide staff with a 30-day notice. The agency said the furlough is a short term measure until long term budget reduction can be enacted and has been approved through June 30, 2018.

Locally, the Pottawatomie County Health Department in Shawnee is already operating with a reduced staff, but the furloughs are expected to impact clinical operations involving the five nurses on staff at the department.

Brenda Potts, administrative director of the Pottawatomie County Health Department, said with reduced staff from furloughs, the local office may be affected when it comes to seeing all the walk-in patients. Because of that, she said they will ask for appointments whenever possible or suggest that people call ahead.

With five nurses, “they will have to alternate days off,” she said. “We''ll try to do our best to see everybody.”

In addition to offering clinical services, such as flu shots and other immunization services, the Pottawatomie County Health Department sees patients through its family planing clinic and other services, but this furlough also impacts those employees working in public services, such as restaurant and food inspections.

Other cost-saving measures for the OSDH statewide include a Voluntary Out Benefit Offer (VOBO) that is being prepared to reduce staffing levels statewide. The plan is not yet finalized but will be announced to employees in the coming weeks.

The current budget reductions taken by OSDH are independent of any additional budget cuts for SFY ’18 that may occur as a result of legislative action during the special session.

“We are grateful to the Legislature and Governor for trying to minimize budget cuts to the department. Between SFY 2017 and 2018 the OSDH only received a 2.8% reduction in state funds.” Cox-Kain said. “However, the cumulative annual reduction in state appropriation to the OSDH since 2009 is 29.24 percent.”

Watch for updates.