Oklahoma Health Dept. needs $30 million for payroll

Updated: Nov. 6, 2017 at 6:17 PM CST
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NORMAN, OK (KSWO) - The Oklahoma State Department of Health says it needs $30 million before the end of the month just to pay their employees.

That announcement came during a press conference in Norman Monday from the agency's new interim commissioner, who took over the job last week after the previous head of the department resigned

Interim Commissioner Preston Doerflinger said years of misspending have left the Oklahoma State Department of Health in an unfavorable position. Receive $30 million from the Oklahoma legislature before November 29t or not be able to pay their more than 2,000 employees.

"It's not rocket surgery. If you don't have $30 million you won't be able to carry out a lot of services that you're currently providing to the citizens of the state," Doerflinger said.

Doerflinger said that $30 million will simply be used for payroll and to keep their debt from increasing. He said there's a chance they will need more money in the future, but the exact amount won't be known until an audit of the department is complete. Regardless of what that audit reveals, Doerflinger said employees being fired is expected.

"In some form or another there will be a reduction in force as we evaluate the agency. It needs to be approached strategically," Doerflinger said.

Doerflinger said they have put together a team that will search throughout the entire Oklahoma State Department of Health and find the areas where cuts can be made. He said despite all of the legislatures recent struggles, he is hopeful they will find money for the department for one simple reason - the health department is too important to fail

"This agency is the health safety net for the state and its citizens. The Oklahoma State Department of Health serves every citizen from birth to death and countless times throughout their lives," Doerflinger said.

The struggles with the health department reach every corner of the state and Regional Director for the Comanche County Health Department Brandie Combs said it has certainly taken its toll on the employees in southwest Oklahoma.

"I think you could probably talk to any employee at any county health department and they'd tell you it's tough," Combs said. "The unknown is intimidating, it's scary. Morale isn't the greatest but I will tell you I'm very proud of the employees we have. They show up every day, they do their job, they love the job they do, they recognize the importance of the job they do."

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