2018-10-07 / Front Page

Chesaning Twp. board discusses health dept. plan to shutter rural clinics

By Jeanne Marcello
Staff Reporter

CHESANING TWP. – During the Thursday, Oct. 4 meeting of the Chesaning Township Board of Trustees, Treasurer Cathy Gross reported she had just received a letter from the Saginaw County Public Health Department stating it is closing down all outlying clinics, including the Rehmann Health Center and St. Charles Health Clinic.

Gross explained the letter indicates the closures are due to significant budget constraints. The Health Department plans to close three outlying clinics, Chesaning, St. Charles and Birch Run by the end of the year.

Saginaw County District 6 Commissioner Kyle Harris was in the audience. He told the Chesaning Township Board that the county gave the health department more money, an additional $228,000, in the 2019 budget. Harris said he was just told they were thinking about closing all three outlying clinics at the end of the year and now this.

Harris told the township board, “In September, Chesaning only served seven people.”

Gross said that’s wrong and questioned where he got the number.

Harris said those were the numbers given to the county board of commissioners.

Gross looked up the actual service numbers for September - 11 Women Infants and Children (WIC) services and nine immunizations.

Supervisor Bob Corrin said they’ve heard complaints from the health department staff about the distance from Saginaw.

Harris said that the health department talked about having a long-term goal to have a mobile service, but that would cost about $230,000.

Gross asked why the county health department would spend $230,000 on a mobile unit when they have free buildings provided by the communities they’ve been serving.

Chesaning Township Trustee Pete Hemgesberg said, “So the health department expects people from Chapin to drive all the way into Saginaw.” He asked Harris how much additional money the public health department would have between closing the clinics and the additional received from the county board of commissioners. “I know there have been staffing issues,” Hemgesberg said. He wondered if the board is being given the right numbers.

Chesaning Township Trustee Ken Hornak said he has a concern with children getting immunizations.

Corrin told Harris, “Most of you guys have no idea how far it is to Chapin (it’s approximately 35 - 40 miles from Saginaw).” Chesaning is about 30 miles from the health department.

Gross read the letter to the township board. In it, health department director Christina Harrington said, “We must focus our service delivery at this time on one location. We want to thank the Rehmann Health Center Board members for your continued support of public health services to protect and promote the health of our residents, particularly those in the rural communities within the county. We will be encouraging residents needing immunizations and WIC services to continue to seek those services at the main building in Saginaw and will work with clients for a seamless transition. Our presence in scheduled clinic dates will continue over the next few months and we welcome your feedback on this process as well.”

Chesaning Township Trustee Bill Hedrich said, “So they’re going to continue to collect our tax dollars to support Saginaw.”

Hornak asked if the health department was going to use the money to offset wages.

Hemgesberg said, “They can’t have a big expense (since they don’t pay for the clinic buildings). Where’s this money going?”

Gross said, “It’s 13 hours a month (in Chesaning).”

Gross said, “I know at least one of the doctors in town doesn’t offer all immunizations.”

Harris told the Chesaning Township Board, “You’re my third township I’ve been to this week and (the others) don’t care.”

Hemgesberg said, “That’s too bad.”

Gross said, “I think it’s a nice service.”

Harris said he believes the outlying clinics will all be closed by or at the end of the year.

The end of the letter states, “Please know that we will attempt to offer occasional community clinics in the future with the hopes of restoring rural services as a long-range strategic plan. Again, thank you for your understanding in this difficult decision and for the many years of support to public health. If you would like to discuss the transition planning of services or have questions, please feel free to contact me at (989) 758-3818 or by email at charrington@saginawcounty.com.”

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