News for October 10, 1999

Harrison Health Dept. ailing from bout of financial woes

by James Fisher
Staff Writer
Even if the Harrison-Clarksburg Health Department didn't have to vacate the Harrison County Courthouse Annex to clear space for the county's third circuit judge in 2001, there would still be problems.
But the existing financial problems of the department are being compounded by the impending move.
Since last year, the department has lost more than $565,000 in total funding. While state aid and money from the county's vital services levy are projected to actually increase for fiscal year 2000, the department has taken a huge hit in funding from federal Medicare and Medicaid.
The funding problems have gotten so bad, according to administrator Randy Moodispaugh, that the department has been forced to lay off three nurses, two aides and a clerk since July, including one nurse and one aide on Friday. Department officials will look at their situation again in three months to decide if more layoffs are needed.
Aside from the layoffs, two nurses have retired and four more quit their jobs at the department this summer.
"I think they could see what was happening financially," Moodispaugh said. "The handwriting was on the wall and they decided to look for work elsewhere."
Since July, the staff has dropped from about 50 workers, including nurses, aides, clerical staff and administrators, to 33. While some of the remaining workers are shouldering an increased workload, some of the layoffs have resulted from a decrease in patients.
And that has many nurses concerned.
"We're scared," said Cindy Reep, who has worked for the department for eight years. "We never know when we come in if we'll have a job or who's going to be gone."
Assistant Nursing Director Nina Sutherland said that although the financial problems are adversely affecting the staff, the nurses are trying to band together to make a smooth transition when the department is forced to move.
"It affects the whole, not knowing," she said. "We're trying to pull together. We just don't know what the future holds for us."

Where has the funding gone?

The decrease in home health patients over the past three years is causing the majority of the funding problems, Moodispaugh said. According to the 1999 projected budget, the department was counting on nearly $1.8 million in Medicare and Medicaid funding from home health. For fiscal year 2000, that number has dropped to just over $1.1 million.
Moodispaugh said the decrease can be traced to stricter Medicare rules concerning certain home health care procedures and who is covered.
"We also can't keep patients as long," he said. "Certain services have been taken away and there has been a stricter enforcement of Medicare as far as the doctors are concerned in giving the orders and certifying the need for home health care."
Moodispaugh said that one of the primary criteria is that the patient be homebound.
"I think the doctors are being more cautious about people who may or may not quite meet the federal standards and so they are not referring them to us for home health care," he said.
Moodispaugh also said there is a general feeling among health care providers that hospitals and private firms offering home health care are taking patients away from county health departments.
"One of our main financial supports is in home health and that's been hit hard nationally by budget cuts," said the department's director, Dr. Paul Gordon. "We're a fraction of what we used to be in terms of self-support."
While state and county funds have increased, Clarksburg's contribution to the department has dropped. And despite the fact that the department services residents county-wide, no other municipality in Harrison County helps with funding.
"In the past, we've requested help from some surrounding municipalities," Gordon said. "We got one, 1-year funding (from Nutter Fort) but the others didn't even answer our requests."
Moodispaugh said Nutter Fort gave $1,000 to the department in 1997, but officials have met with resistance to their requests for funding from other communities.

Funding loss affects quality of care

Because of the decreased federal money and subsequent layoffs, nurses at the department say the care given to patients is being affected.
"Patients get used to one nurse coming in and taking care of them," said Kavin Richardson, a home health nurse at the department for more than eight years.
"The regular nurse knows what is normal for that patient," she said. "Then the patient finds out that that nurse isn't coming back and it's disruptive to the care. The patients need a continuity of care and they deserve it."
But that is just the home health care nurses. What about the other functions of the health department?
Moodispaugh said that the department is down to five sanitarians, who perform the health inspections required by the state.
"We should really have six sanitarians," he said. "There are five of us performing the work that six should be doing. And that number was generated before this last growth spurt, before the FBI Center came in."
Sanitarians conduct health inspections at restaurants, hotels and other public buildings as well as other related functions. The checks are mandated by the state and the department does receive some state funding for this, but Moodispaugh said the money can't be used to subsidize the home health care aspect of the department.
And the department also performs many functions in the clinic located in the courthouse annex.
Pregnancy testing, immunizations, tuberculosis testing, a pre-natal clinic and family planning are just a few of the services offered by the department, Sutherland said. In addition, an on-call nurse is available 24-hours per day.
Sutherland said many people do not realize the extent of the services offered by the department. She was unsure how services may be affected by further financial cuts that may happen because of the impending move.

An added problem

As if the existing financial woes were not enough, department officials were informed this summer that they must move out of their present location to make room for the county's third judge, who will take office January 2001.
A committee has been formed to scout out potential locations for the department, said Harrison County Commission Administrative Assistant James Harris. Harris and Jeff Mikorski, Clarksburg's director of community and economic development, will meet Wednesday to discuss in detail several possible locations.
Harris said the committee came up with several criteria for a new department location, including proximity to public transportation and the downtown area.
However, department officials are concerned about how moving out of the county-owned space will affect their already delicate finances.
"Any place we move, we're going to need money for telephones, computers and utilities," Sutherland said. "You can't just walk into a place and set up a health department."
Moodispaugh estimated that the county provides about $45,000 worth of support each year because the department is in the courthouse annex. Currently, the county pays for utilities, garbage and telephone service and janitorial cleaning.
Harris said department officials want assurances that the county will continue to underwrite these services.
"I don't know what legal responsibilities the commission has to the health department," Harris said. "It's a question we're looking into."
Department officials are also concerned that the move could present a problem for patients.
"What may be accessible to home health may not be accessible to public health (after the move)," Richardson said. "We service a lot of individuals and a lot of seniors who come in here one day per week to get their blood pressure checked. While they're here, we can perform some preventative care."
Gordon said the department has become a kind of haven for seniors, who are able to come in and receive free flu vaccines, check-ups and other care.
While Harris agreed that the move is compounding the department's existing problems, he said the county commission is working to make the move as smooth as possible.
"It's becoming kind of adversarial, but it shouldn't be," he said. "The commission has made it clear that they want to help provide the same quality health care, just in a different location. The health department is already spinning with issues of downsizing and financial problems and this is just adding to their stress."

Water Board member says expenditures questionable

by Paul Leakan
Staff Writer
The Clarksburg Water Board's policy to pay for health and life insurance coverage for former board members, as well as its approval of overtime payment to salaried supervisors, may be unethical and needs to stop, one board member says.
"People work all their lives for companies and they do not retire with benefits like this," said board member Charles O. Thayer III. "Even the employees of the water board themselves don't get these kind of benefits. Why should board members receive it?"
Since the mid-1980s, the water board has been paying thousands of dollars for health and life insurance coverage for former board members.
According to records willingly provided by the board to the Clarksburg Exponent and Telegram upon a Freedom of Information request, the board currently pays a total of more than $550 monthly to cover life insurance and Medicare supplements for former board member Dominick Policano. It also pays a total of almost $280 monthly to cover health and life insurance coverage for former board member Frank Angotti Jr.
The board also set a policy in 1995 that allows salaried supervisors to receive up to 10 hours per pay period in overtime wages, at the discretion of the general manager.
Both policies may be unethical and immoral, Thayer said.
 "I think it's taking advantage of the public to vote yourself benefits of this type for serving on a board," he said. "I served on council for 11 years, and members of council didn't have anything like that as far as benefits."
Policano said Saturday that he did not wish to comment without knowing more about the issue. But he also said:
"There's more to this than people are telling the newspaper."
Angotti was unavailable for comment.
Clarksburg City Council members receive health insurance coverage while they are in office. But the city does not pay for the insurance once the council member, or any other city employee, vacates their position, said Frank Ferrari, acting city manager of Clarksburg.
Ferrari said the city hasn't considered creating a policy that would continue to pay for employees' health insurance after they retire simply because of the high costs.
Patsy Trecost, general manager of the board, said the board's attorney told him that the policies are legal.
But the big question, Thayer believes, is whether they are ethical.
The board has hired an outside law firm to give a legal opinion on whether the policy regarding health insurance is ethical. The law firm has yet to give its opinion.
The board may also seek an opinion from the West Virginia Ethics Commission, Thayer said.
Board members Pat D'Anselmi and Robert Glotfelty were not able to be reached for comment on either policies. Glotfelty is currently in Czechoslovakia.
D'Anselmi and Thayer have turned down the board's health insurance plan for current board members, but D'Anselmi does have a life insurance policy paid for by the board. Glotfelty, who receives Medicare supplements from the board, recently canceled his life insurance plan. The board had been paying $335 a month for the plan.
The board is operating with a $400,000 deficit and has had an increase in overall costs for operations, including costs for chemicals, electricity and salary wages during the last few years, said Dan Adkins, the board's director of finance.
The board has also held off from spending around $188,000 for capital improvements and chose not to fill five vacant positions, all because of budget constraints.
Trecost said the board is doing the best it can to cut costs and serve the community well.
"There's no hidden secrets here," Trecost said. "We just try to do our jobs and save money and do the best we can."
But Thayer still believes it's important for the board to check into all of its policies and practices, especially considering the barrage of questions it faced following its recent water rate hike.
"I just have a strong suspicion that there have been a lot of things that happen that shouldn't happen (at the water board)," he said. "I'm sure the public would be outraged about some of these practices, where advantages have been gained and benefits occurred."

Klan rallies cost cities and towns big money

by Andrew Huggins
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- When the Ku Klux Klan came to Defiance, the city prepared for an invasion.
More than 250 police officers from several departments near the small northwest Ohio city came to keep the peace between at least 300 protesters and 41 Klansmen.
The hourlong rally March 20 by the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was uneventful, but peace came at a cost of $17,500 in overtime and other expenses, such as fences.
Defiance, a city of 16,000, is not alone in spending lots of money to ensure that a relatively small number of Klansmen can safely hold a rally.
With nearly two dozen Klan rallies so far this year, the bill for taxpayers has reached about $800,000. In 1994, the state received reports of 32 events involving the Klan and four involving other white supremacist groups. There have been at least 20 Klan events this year.
Almay said rallies died down after 1994 because a pivotal Klan organizer went to prison for beating an ex-girlfriend. The resurgence this year, he said, is partly due to James Roesch, an outspoken 18-year-old who calls himself Imperial Wizard of the American Knights of the White Kamellia.
Roesch said Klansmen don't ask for police protection, and anti-Klan protesters are the ones trying to provoke fights and rioting.
"All we ask is to give our speeches," said Roesch, who lives in Rushylvania. "There's many ways a city could save money. The way they spend money is ludicrous."
But even if protesters stayed away, officials say, they would have to prepare for confrontations anyway.
"If you don't have adequate protection, things get out of hand and you catch a lot of criticism for that. If you're adequately prepared, you catch a lot of criticism from people who say it's overkill," said Defiance County Sheriff Dave Westrick.
After years of refinement, the state now provides an "off the shelf" plan to communities for dealing with rallies. The plan includes advice on crowd control, security and how best to separate protesters, Klansmen and the media, said Ted Almay, superintendent of the Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation.
Now the state is also promising to help cut costs.
Attorney General Betty Montgomery said her office, for the first time, will make free metal detectors and fences available for use during rallies.
Her office spent $8,000 on two walk-through detectors, six handheld detectors and several miles of chain-link fencing.
Almay said the goal is to "ease the burden of the small towns. A city like Columbus, we'll help with intelligence and we'll help that day get things together, but when you go to Urbana or places like that, this is devastating."
The biggest cost to date has been in Cleveland, which said its Aug. 21 rally cost more than $537,000, mainly in overtime for police officers, street and water department employees, and other workers.
By contrast, a May 1 rally by the American Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in Zanesville -- population 28,000 -- cost the city $7,500 and the Muskingum County Sheriff's Department an additional $25,000.
"It is an unfortunate waste of taxpayers' money to have to do that, but in order to keep the city safe and officers safe, it's something you have to do," said Zanesville Police Chief Diane Quinn.
Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, Ala., said the number of Klansmen who show up rarely matters since they are always going to draw large protest crowds, whether or not communities ask people to stay away.
Attempts to recover the cost of rallies from the Klan itself have met with limited success.
In June 1992, in a case involving a white supremacist group in Forsyth County, Ga., the Supreme Court said communities that impose permit fees for parades and rallies can't charge more for controversial groups just because they might need more police protection.
Following a 1996 Klan rally in Ann Arbor, Mich., the city billed both the Klan and an anti-Klan organization $72,000 for the cost of security. The city never started collection action but hasn't ruled out the possibility, city attorney Abigail Elias said.
Montgomery said there are real legal problems "in terms of billing a particular group which is exercising its First Amendment rights, and selecting out one group because we don't like it and saying, 'We'll protect you, but we're going to charge you,' but other groups we don't charge."

A nurse's job is always changing

Technology, required skills and job supply in constant flux

by Gail Marsh
Staff writer
With more than 27 years in her profession, Nancy Morgan has witnessed tremendous change in nursing.
Morgan, a nurse educator at United Hospital Center, has taught nursing, worked in a doctor's office, was employed as a pediatric nurse and worked in several hospitals.
Job expectations have increased, technology has changed, and accountability has been taken to a greater level in the nursing field, she said.
"When I started in the profession, things were not nearly as technologically advanced. So many more doors are open today and so many new fields are available for those who choose to go into nursing," she said.
But one thing has remained the same. There's an inevitable cycle that produces either an oversupply of nurses or a shortage of nurses.
According to a national survey by the American Hospital Association, a professional trade organization, indicators predict a nationwide nursing shortage in the next 10 years.
At the state level, the West Virginia Hospital Association conducted an informal survey of its member hospitals that showed the potential for a nursing shortage in the Mountain State.
Of the hospitals with more than 100 beds responding to the state survey, 53 percent were experiencing difficulty recruiting nurses; 100 percent of small and rural hospitals noted difficulty with recruitment. More than half of those responding said there were problems in retaining current nursing personnel.
"The shortage this time will not be so much about sufficient numbers, but about an increased demand for nurses with skills and experience," said John Law, with the state hospital association.
Bruce Carter, president of United Hospital Center in Clarksburg, said that other states, such as California, Arizona and Florida, are already experiencing nursing shortages, but the supply of nurses to fill jobs in North Central West Virginia remains constant.
"We're fortunate in that we have five colleges and two vocational schools in our region that are supplying our area with competent nursing graduates," he said.
But Carter said one of the problems that may contribute to any future nursing shortages is the nature of the profession itself.
"Twenty or 30 years ago, most women who wanted to go into a professional field chose the traditional fields of teaching or nursing. Now that employment is wide open and there are so many more choices, women are not as pre-programmed to go into nursing," he said.
Dr. Deborah Kisner, chair of the School of Health Care and director of nursing programs at Fairmont State College, said there are several reasons to start looking ahead at trends in nursing.
"We are living in a state with the largest per-capita elderly population in the nation, in a part of the state with the highest percentage of elderly residents. We have to think about the demands that will place on the health care system," Kisner said.
With the average age of registered nurses at 44, many of the most experienced workers will be considering retirement in the next 10 years, Kisner said.
"The biggest problem we will face will be how to replace those experienced, highly skilled workers in a declining pool of experienced nurses," she said.
Fairmont State admits 60 students each fall into its two-year associate program; about 60 students are enrolled in the college's four-year, bachelor's program. Kisner said the pool of applicants for nursing school remains large, but not everyone who applies is suited for the profession.
"It's more than just having a strong background in science and math and possessing good communication skills. We are looking for the highly motivated, energetic advocate who isn't just looking for a quick job, but for a profession," she said.
Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi has about 100 nursing students in its program, with 25 new slots opened each year. Dr. Sharon Boni, chair for the Division of Health Sciences, said there have been some concern because application numbers are down.
Boni believes that nurses, as a group, have been dissatisfied with downsizing in hospitals and the rapid changes in health care that affect the way nurses are able to care for their patients.
"Nurses are pulled in so many different directions, and they're not able to give as much quality care. I don't think they are encouraging their daughters or their friends' children to go into the profession anymore," she said.
Dr. Catherine Nolan, project coordinator of the North Central West Virginia Nursing Workforce Network at West Virginia University, said her program is in the process of collecting data from hospitals and long-term care facilities to help predict nursing trends.
Nolan said the number of those entering four-year nursing programs dropped more than 5 percent in the last two years, but said that drop is not entirely from lack of new applicants.
"There have been cuts in administration in schools across the country due to budget constraints. Faculty shortages and limited space for clinical training sites add to the problem," she said.
Rather than a wholesale shortage of nurses, Nolan said it's more likely that specialized nursing will experience shortages, in fields such as critical care, neo-natal care and obstetrics.
"I think the nursing shortage may be found more in regions of the nation rather than across the whole country. We hope to have a clearer picture of North Central West Virginia early next year," she said.
Judy Peasak, human resources coordinator for United Hospital, said UHC has been fortunate so far in being able to recruit and retain enough experienced nurses. Though fewer people may be taking up the profession, she still believes it's one of the best fields to pursue.
"The field of nursing is always changing and always growing and there are so many ways to advance. Anyone who chooses a career in nursing will find the field wide open as to where they choose to work and what type of work they want to do," she said.

WWII POW: Ordeal taught me much

'Eugene' Young learned the value of appreciation, the harm of self-pity

by Shawn Gainer
Staff Writer
In December 1944, Edward "Eugene" Young was in the wrong place at the wrong time, which led to a harrowing period spent as a prisoner of war.
Young, a 78-year-old resident of Harrison County, was a sergeant in the artillery component of a U.S. Army division that was holding a position in Belgium's Ardennes Forest. There, under the cover of bitter winter, German forces staged a desperate but devastating offensive known as The Battle of the Bulge against Allied troops who were thinly spread through the previously quiet area.
"My division was covering a 27-mile front when it was normal for a division to cover 15 or 16 miles," Young said. "We had a support base at Antwerp, Belgium, and Hitler was trying to drive there. If he had succeeded, the war would have been prolonged six months at our expense."
Allied commanders were not prepared for the assault, and many American units were overwhelmed despite their best efforts to hold out, he said.
"We were outnumbered nine to one and Hitler had selected SS Panzer groups to lead the attack. They cut off our supply lines and surrounded us," he said. "We held out for nine days without shipments of food, ammunition or medicine. But before we could get a round off, they were lobbing shells on us from the rear.
"We were ordered to surrender as a unit," he continued. "We took the firing pins out of our 105mm howitzers and dropped grenades down the barrels. Then word came down that we could take off on foot if we wanted. We did, but we didn't get very far."
Young and several hundred members of his unit slept in barns, ate snow for water and went four days without eating before they were captured. German soldiers gave them meager rations of cheese before loading them on a train, 64 men in each small box car.
"We went six nights and five days without water and food," he said. "At night peoples' clothes would freeze to the wall."
On Christmas Day, the captured soldiers were unloaded at Stalag 9-A in Bad Orb, the first of two prison camps where Young stayed until his liberation in 1945.
Young said life in the camps was nothing like the hit television show "Hogan's Heroes," in which characters portraying Allied prisoners had a chummy relationship with their benevolently incompetent German guards.
"Every one of us saw boys killed for no reason at all. It was also common for the guards to hit prisoners in the head with rifle butts."
General living conditions, with inadequate food, clothing, medical care and personal hygiene, may have been the most difficult part of the experience.
"When we were marched into Bad Orb, the Russian prisoners gave us their portion of soup. It was made with potato peelings and rotten carrots. We were so hungry that it tasted good, but that night we all got diarrhea," he said.
Young said he weighed 189 pounds when he was captured and 92 pounds when he was set free. Typical meals included a breakfast of tea made from bark, soup with no meat or seasoning for lunch and small portions of hard bread that "you could knock a bull down with" for dinner. He added that during his captivity he was not given a single chance to bathe or shave and he suffered frostbite on both feet.
"I knew a boy who had appendicitis and they operated on him without anesthesia," he added. "He survived. It's amazing what the human body can endure."
Young was eventually loaded onto another train for a three-day trip to Stalag 9-B in Seigenheim. He said those who survived did so by never losing faith they would eventually be freed.
"The Germans broadcasted their propaganda over loudspeakers all day. According to them, they were winning the war. But we had our own radio tube, so we could listen to our news. We would post a guard while we were listening, and the Germans never caught on.
"We could hear the guns and the American planes flying over on their way to drop their bombs, too. We knew they were coming."
Young is a member of the Fairmont chapter of the Ex-Prisoners of War. He frequently speaks about his experiences in the German camps, telling others that it was, in some ways, "a blessing in disguise."
"It gave me a chance to evaluate life and have a different appreciation for things," he said. "I appreciate what I took for granted before I was a prisoner of war. I also learned to let go of bitterness and self-pity. Either one can eat you alive, no matter how young or old you are.
"I want people to realize how blessed we are and leave my talks with their hands held high for the fact they are Americans," he added.
The Ex-Prisoners of War estimate there are about 468 World War II POWs remaining in the state, a number that is continually declining because of the health problems related to their time in captivity, Young said.
"The thing I always tell the Ex-Prisoners of War when I talk before them is that I hope we are a dying organization," he added. "By that, I mean I hope that future generations won't have to go through this."

Jack McIntire legally blind but sees a bright future

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series of articles for National Rehabilitation Awareness Month.
by Gail Marsh
Staff Writer
Jack McIntire of Stonewood is nearing retirement age, but he doesn't think much about giving up his successful vending machine route.
He says he enjoys his work too much to consider stopping anytime soon.
"I really do like my job, and I enjoy the people that I meet out on the job. I may be past 68 years old, but I still like working," he said.
McIntire, who is legally blind, stocks and maintains vending machines in the Clarksburg area.
He supplies the John W. Davis Government Building, the EastPointe Post Office and the new Clarksburg Federal Building with soft drinks, juice and snacks of all kinds.
McIntire is just one of a number of rehabilitation successes stories affiliated with the West Virginia Division of Rehabilitation Services.
The month of October has been designated National Rehabilita-tion Awareness Month by Gov. Cecil Underwood.
It's a time to remind residents of the work that the disabled do well, sometimes with little recognition.
McIntire was born with congenital cataracts but was able to attend public schools.
Before receiving training to become a registered vendor, he worked for Goodwill Industries in Ohio and as a broom inspector and finisher for a broom factory once located in Stonewood.
"When I was growing up vision-impaired, if I went for a job I had to be able to do it or else," McIntire said.
"Now there is such good help with the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) that you can get the training you need to do a lot more jobs," he said.
With the help of rehabilitation services, McIntire said, he has been able to keep good jobs and do interesting work.
"I see people every day who would do nothing if they could get by with it. But me, I've always been glad for the chance to work," he said.
"That's just the way I am."

Local and area news in brief

Judge orders halt to WVU's sick leave guidelines

CHARLESTON (AP) -- A Kanawha County Circuit Court judge has ordered West Virginia University officials to temporarily halt using the school's sick leave policy because it is used to discipline workers.
The WVU guidelines were drawn up in the early 1980s to prevent abuse of the sick leave policy of the University System of West Virginia Board of Trustees, WVU General Counsel Jon Reed said Friday.
Judge Andrew MacQueen said the WVU guidelines "went further than we needed to go," Reed said.
A group of current and former university employees sued last month, claiming they were punished for using their sick leave. Larry Harless, a lawyer who represents the employees, said the sick leave guidelines were used to fire some workers.
A revised policy is to be drafted for approval by MacQueen.

Teachers welcome takeover of schools in Lincoln County

CHARLESTON (AP) -- Education officials say the state Board of Education's decision to declare a state of emergency in Lincoln County Schools was the right thing to do.
"Most of our members in Lincoln County thought this was the right move to make," said Jennifer Shopes, the Lincoln representative for the West Virginia Federation of Teachers.
The board made the decision Friday, citing low test scores, poor facility maintenance, unethical hiring practices and mishandling of school funds.
In a 102-page report, the state Office of Education Performance Audits detailed 213 instances of noncompliance with state accreditation standards.
The state board plans to meet with the county school board this week to discuss the findings. During the following 60 days, a team of state educators will perform a more in-depth evaluation of the school system and make recommendations for improvement.

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