Last week, the Washington County Health Department hosted a vision clinic for children. It was a very successful clinic and well attended by children from throughout the county, including the cities of Marietta and Belpre. This is one of two clinics for children held in collaboration with the Marietta City Health Department. During the vision clinic, two doctors, one local and one from Columbus, examine children who have been referred to the clinic by local family physicians and pediatrician, schools, or parents because they are experiencing vision problems.
The second specialty clinic, a hearing clinic, is hosted at the Marietta City Health Department. During this clinic, a local physician examines the children. Audiologists, both from Columbus and locally, are present to perform hearing tests. A local speech pathologist is also present to work with children who need the help with speech problems that this individual can provide.
Both of these clinics are held once a quarter at the health departments. Parents and caregivers can contact either the Washington County Health Department or the Marietta City Health Department about these services or scheduling appointments.
Families in Washington County are fortunate to have these services available for children locally. However, it has been a struggle to maintain these clinics and other resources as the budget strings of state and local governments get tighter. In the last few years the number of these types of specialty clinics available for children in Washington County has decreased. Both of these clinics were held more frequently but have been reduced in numbers.
Locally, well child clinics were once held several times a month at the Washington County Health Department. These clinics were designed to provide physicals and screenings for children entering school, Headstart programs or as needed by insurance and wellness programs. Over the last few years, the numbers of these clinics has declined because of poor attendance and participation. The last scheduled clinic held at WCHD was held on Jan. 13. Approximately a dozen children were scheduled and confirmed, but only one child actually came to the clinic. Meanwhile, the health department had a pediatrician and speech therapist available as well as nursing staff to conduct the clinic. With this poor response to this service and the cost of providing the staff necessary, the health department has decided to limit the number of well child clinics to two or three times a year. Hopefully, the children who could be served will not be neglected in getting the physicals and services they need from private physicians.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, the Washington County Health Department has collaborated with the Marietta City Health Departments in providing specialty clinics for our children in Washington County. There is so much more these health departments could do in collaborating and working together in providing services countywide. WCHD provides nursing services through satellite clinics held throughout Washington County as well as at the health department location on Muskingum Drive. Yet, both of these health departments along with the Belpre City Health Department duplicate many of the services offered. In the current economic situation which has existed over the past several years, wouldn't it make sense for the three health departments to work more closely together in sharing services? So much more could be accomplished and at a reduced cost for all the citizens of Washington County.
Think about it and let us know your thoughts on public health collaboration of services. There will be more discussions and decisions made as we proceed through the year. Contact us through our website at washco-ohhealth.org.
Kathleen Meckstroth is Washington County health commissioner and executive director of the Washington County Health Department, 342 Muskingum Drive, Marietta.