County Health Department Seeks Budget Adjustment After Covid Vaccine Moves to Private Pay, Maintenance on Building Up Costs

By Benjamin Cox on February 15, 2024 at 6:11am

The two trees in this file photo have now since been taken down due to the June derecho. The Health Dept. had to pay to have them removed, with some of the costs filtering into the current fiscal year's budget.

Two county departments asked for budget adjustments Monday morning at the Morgan County Commissioners’ meeting.

The Morgan County Health Department had the biggest ask from the county, requesting an amount near $150,000 more than their anticipated budget.

Health Department Administrator Dale Bainter said it was a shift on the way the Covid-19 vaccine was billed and distributed, which started this past Fall: “During the emergency declaration and through the federal government and then to the state governments, the Covid vaccine in the rush to get it out and make it available during the pandemic was always provided to those that administered the vaccine free of charge. As we have moved to the next stage of our response to Covid, it has become a traditional private pay vaccine similar to when we would buy flu vaccine, pneumonia vaccine annually. We purchase that from a pharmaceutical company and get it directly, so we no longer have those vaccines provided to us, we have to purchase them before we administer them to the public.”

Bainter says that the Covid vaccine’s cost at the Health Department will be determined by the individual patient’s insurance and their co-pay. Bainter says that they’ve already administered over 100 doses during this year’s flu season under the private pay system. As a part of the total budget increase request, the vaccine purchase amounts for about $123,000 of the adjustment they were requesting.

Bainter says the remaining $27,000 is due to leftover clean up from the June derecho and contractual maintenance on their current building: “When we purchased the building, we had met with some local HVAC contractors and we were a little prepared for this. They had said there had been some deferred maintenance on the building. Any time you defer maintenance, it’s going to come back to bite you. So, these extreme temperature changes, they really identified some needs that we needed to address. We’ve been able to address those. Fortunately, the building is so well constructed and it has a great thermal mass. These things needed to be done but we are still in a great place with that building.”

Bainter told the commissioners that coils had to be drilled into on one of the HVAC units on one end of the building to discover the temperature fluctuation issue. The coils were determined to be clogged significantly and were blown out and cleaned and sealed back up. Bainter says that the units should operate to properly heat and cool the building with proper maintenance for a very long time now.

The other department that had a positive adjustment was the Public Defender’s Office. The office received one-time grant money totaling more than $90,000 to this year’s budget revenues. As a result of the grant, the public defender’s office will have a balanced budget for their office at the end of the fiscal year.