By MAX FILBY
Findlay City Council’s Appropriations Committee approved a recommendation Tuesday to provide start-up funding for the Findlay and Hancock County Health Department merger.
City Council will get the final say on the merger appropriation of $550,000, which will be used to pay the city’s portion of the start-up expense.
Hancock County will contribute around $375,000 to the start-up fund, according to a draft of the implementation plan.
The merger is set to be completed Jan. 1.
Findlay then will pay $360,000 annually and Hancock County will pay $247,500 annually, both through 2019, for the merged department’s operating expenses. Funding is based on population.
Members of the Appropriations Committee heard updates from Interim Health Commissioner William McHugh on Tuesday.
A “driving force” behind the merger is the need for the combined department to become accredited by the state, Safety-Service Director Paul Schmelzer said. Health departments must be accredited by 2020 or else they will lose state funding.
“It would not have been possible if they stayed separate,” McHugh said.
The combined health department is being operated out of two locations. All city and county nursing services are based at the city department’s location at 1644 Tiffin Ave., Suite A, and all environmental services are at the county-owned “cottages” at 7748 Hancock County 140.
The separate quarters are temporary until a single location, large enough to handle all health department business, is established, McHugh said last month.
McHugh also told council members and other city officials on Tuesday that he has a goal of creating a system for doctors in the area to better communicate and share patient information.
The network, which McHugh called a “medical neighborhood,” would allow for better “health outcomes” and would be modeled after a similar system created in Grand Junction, Colorado.
Findlay is uniquely positioned to create the network because its health care providers “get along” and don’t see each other as adversaries, as providers in some other communities do, McHugh said.
“It will allow local health care providers to get organized in a way they haven’t been organized before,” McHugh said.
Separately Tuesday, the Appropriations Committee approved a recommendation for council to appropriate $100,000 to pay for past Multi Agency Radio Communications System radio fees.
Schmelzer said the city had been withholding the fees it owed until the state addressed problems with the radio system.
The service has improved enough that Schmelzer said he feels comfortable paying the fee.