Putnam opens new health department in Winfield
09/17/2013 - The Charleston Gazette. By Lydia Nuzum.
WINFIELD - After months of financial struggle and uncertainty, the Putnam County Health Department has established a new home at 3282 Winfield Road, in Winfield.
The facility, which opened Monday, is housed in an office building directly across from Winfield Middle School.
According to Ashley Meadows, a licensed practical nurse for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department who has volunteered to work shifts at the Putnam agency, the new department is currently only offering vaccinations in Winfield, but Kanawha-Charleston administrators hope to expand its capabilities in the near future.
"Today was our first day, so word is still kind of getting out that we're here, but we're hoping people will drive by, or that they've heard we've moved and see if they can find us," Meadows said.
Members of the Kanawha-Charleston agency's staff have volunteered to work different days to fill the need in the Putnam agency, Meadows said, and she only knows what her schedule will look like the week it is given to her.
"I wanted to be able to help and to be able to fill the need here," she said. "I thought it would be good to do this for all of the people who don't have the transportation or the means of getting to Kanawha-Charleston or another county to have access to care."
The new facility has a waiting room, an administrative area, storage space for patient files and an exam room.
While the department's former space in Scott Depot had three to four exam rooms at a given time, at least two were perpetually "inactive," according to Lolita Kirk, administrator for the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department and interim administrator in Putnam County, and she believes the new facility will be able to keep up with demand.
"It comes down to managing your appointments and managing your space effectively. You can do a lot with very little space, actually," Kirk said. "I think we can handle the volume."
According to Kirk, rent for the space is "significantly less" than what the Putnam Health Department paid for its previous location. The building the Health Department has moved into is up for sale, but Kirk said it has been on the market for a long time and she does not foresee major complications if it is sold.
"We feel pretty confident we'll be there for a while -- for the time being, anyway," she said. "You never know, and nothing is absolute. It's one of those things where you don't know what the options might be."
The Putnam County Health Department contracted services with Kanawha-Charleston in June to combat mounting financial problems. The Putnam County Board of Health voted to lay off the department's 12 full-time and two part-time staff members and vacate its previous office space to deal with more than $400,000 in debt.
Kirk said the Kanawha-Charleston agency has hired a full-time clerical worker for the Putnam location, and has encouraged LPNs, registered nurses and other Kanawha-Charleston employees to work out of Putnam County on a rotating basis. She expects to hire an LPN by Oct. 1 and an RN by mid-October to work in Winfield.
Kirk said she hopes to expand the Putnam agency's offerings by the end of the month to include HIV and pregnancy testing, and by Jan. 1 hopes to have a level of service comparable to what the department offered before its current problems.
"It will be very similar to [how] Kanawha-Charleston operates. Then again, there may be services the community there identifies that it wants that we don't have at Kanawha-Charleston," Kirk said. "When you're in public health, it's important to listen to what the community and public are saying they need."
The Putnam County Health Department is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. To schedule an appointment or inquire about services offered through the agency, call 304-757-2541.