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Spark plug pulled on county’s mobile health unit

Cutbacks in state funding have prompted the Marengo County Health Department to close the mobile health unit parked in front of Bryan W. Whitfield Hospital. December 17 is the official closing date.

The satellite site was open on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, said Ashvin Parikh, administrator for Marengo, Hale, Sumter and Perry Counties.

The clinic is open Monday through Friday at the Linden office. Clients can call from 7 to 9 a.m. each day and make an appointment. "We will give the people same-day appointments," Parikh said. "Some people who are working and they have to have an appointment; we’ll work with them." Ninety-nine percent of people who call will receive appointments that same say, he said.

The department had to deal with the lack of state funding available and try best to still offer services. A hypertension program is being eliminated state-wide, he said.

A nurse is having to be moved from one program to another, and hours have been reduced for a clinic aide and custodian. A retiring environmentalist will not be replaced.

A person is being pulled from the Perry County Health Department to help in Marengo County.

The state Department of Public Health was cut 18 percent for fiscal year 2004, but reports indicate there could be up to a 56 percent cut for 2005. Parikh was not optimistic a funding solution would be found for fiscal year 2005. "We don’t know what is going to happen," he said. "…We’re trying to tighten the belt."

Parikh is happy to report that the Uniontown clinic will remain open.

Hour reductions and layoffs are expected throughout the surrounding area.

Hours from three employees at the Greene County Health Department will be trimmed, and one part-time eliminated.

In fiscal year 2005, "there is not going to be enough money," he said. Preventive programs such as the flu vacine, family planning and dental work for children may be reduced or eliminated for 2005 which will cause problems well into the future for those clients affected, Denton said.

For more information about health department services, call Marengo County 1-334-295-4205, ext. 334 or Greene County 1-205-372-9361.