Cuts impact those helped through Oklahoma State Department of Health

ALTUS, Ok (RNN Texoma) - ALTUS, OK (RNN Texoma) - County Health Departments across Oklahoma are trying to hire employees and bring their services back to where they were after 200 employees were let go back in March. The cuts happened because the State Department of Health was trying to close a $30,000,000 budget gap, but after an audit, new leaders realized the agency was not in debt.

OSDH Regional Director Brandie Combs said records show in Comanche County alone 664 fewer people were served in April of this year compared to April of last year and the agency blames it on the cuts. Many of the jobs that were cut have opened back up, but not before the damage was done.

"The number of clients that we've seen has definitely decreased, but we're doing our very best," Combs said.

Combs said Comanche County was hit hard when the cuts happened. They used to have14 clinic staff, but that number has dwindled down to four. While only 200 employees were supposed to be cut statewide, the department ended up losing a total of 400 employees.

Combs said she lost Registered Nurses who found jobs elsewhere when they heard there were going to be cuts. Those left are staying busy.

"We've been shuffling," she said. "We've been offering the services the best that we can. I've had to close health departments. Weatherford is closed one day a week, Cotton is closed two days a week. When I say closed the doors are open, but we're not able to offer nursing services in those counties except for two days a week."

Tara Turner, who works in Jackson County, said it was hard to see her friends and co-workers leave. She said it's difficult working without them.

"You run on a skeleton crew," Turner said. "Although you try to provide the best and most appropriate services to your community you always wonder, because you're on a skeleton crew if you're doing things the best that you can."

Combs said they're trying to build back to where they were now, but there's going to be some changes. Core services will be offered, but extras will vary by county.

"I hope our employees are confident in the fact that we're going to start moving forward," she said. "Things are going to start improving. I hope our residents understand we're still here, our services are going to be built back up."

The Health Department in Comanche County has multiple jobs open on their website.

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