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HCPHA take-over looms

WINTON – Hertford County Public Health Authority (HCPHA) is experiencing financial difficulty and may face a merger with a multi-county district organization.

On the heels of receiving an audit (for fiscal year ending June 30, 2017) – which showed HCPHA’s liabilities exceeding assets, expenditures over revenues and a shrinking fund balance – the county’s commissioners are poised to take action.

At a recent commissioners’ meeting, the board unanimously agreed to authorize County Manager Loria Williams, in conjunction with HCPHA officials, to pursue discussions with the Albemarle Regional Health Services, regarding ARHS assuming the public health responsibilities required of Hertford County. The approved motion also mentioned a current goal of joining ARHS rather than forming a single county health department, which the board noted “does not appear to be fiscally responsible.”

Albemarle Regional Health Services, based in Elizabeth City, encompasses Pasquotank, Perquimans, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Bertie, and Gates counties.

“HCPHA’s audit raised serious concerns about their financial liability to perform mandated health services,” said Williams. “The factors presented themselves of how to provide these services as of July 1. That issue will be further addressed by the commissioners.”

Williams added that the county’s commissioners have engaged in closed session discussion about HCPHA’s financial woes since January.

The audit revealed HCPHA’s liabilities exceeded its assets by $1,972,974 (net position) by the close of the 2016-17 fiscal year. The auditor also reported that during the same time period, HCPHA’s expenditures exceeded revenues by $322,201 on the modified accrual basis, and by $496,381 on the full accrual basis.

The fund balance stood at $306,960 by year’s end.

“At this point it’s the county’s authority to determine how public health services will be provided,” said HCPHA Director Ramona Bowser. “The commissioners are currently studying options, to include joining Albemarle Regional Health or going with a single county unit.

“All I know at this point is they are in discussions with Albemarle. We’re waiting on the county commissioners to decide how we move forward from this point,” Bowser added.

Currently, HCPHA is the state’s only public health entity using the single county authority method of operation. The Authority was formed on May 3, 2004 upon approval of a resolution by the county commissioners. Prior to that, the entity operated as the Hertford-Gates District Health Department. Gates County dropped out of that District to join ARHS.

HCPHA operates on an appropriation from Hertford County local government (this year that figure stands at $383,000) as well as federal and state funding, and user fees for the services they offer.

This week, the HCPHA Board of Directors provided notice of a public hearing that is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Monday, March 26 regarding their resolution of intent to sell or otherwise convey its home health agency, Hertford-Gates Home Health Agency, in a manner that ensures the continued provision of quality health care to the communities it serves.

That resolution was approved at the HCPHA’s Board’s regular meeting on Feb. 26.

The public hearing will be conducted in the HCPHA conference room located at 801 North King Street in Winton.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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