Since the Cherokee County Board of Supervisors (BOS) first decided to move public health programs to a private entity and close down the Cherokee Public Health Department (PHD), the supervisors and PHD have been using different terminology.
The Cherokee Regional Medical Center (CRMC) was chosen by the BOS to operate programs currently overseen by the PHD, over objections from the Cherokee County Board of Health (BOH).
However, in referring to programs to be administered by CRMC as public health programs, the BOS was not including all of the more than $600,000 in programs now under the responsibility of PHD, according to Kim Rupp, PHD director.
She explained to the supervisors at the weekly meeting on Tuesday that public health programs refer to programs that the state requires that the BOH of each county provides. This does not include such programs as two that are funded through the Northwest Iowa Community Empowerment (NICE) board, a four-county consortium with administrative offices in Orange City.
State empowerment funds for the Healthy Families and Family Circles programs are funneled through the NICE office. They do not have to be administered by a county's PHD, although they had in Cherokee County until Rupp informed the NICE board in February that the county was quitting the programs, effective May 1.
Arrangements were made by the NICE board to employ the three people who have been operating the program, previously through the county. The three will operate the program until the start of the fiscal year on July 1, at which time the NICE board will decide whether they will continue to operate the program or it will be assigned to some other entity.
"You did that on your own in order to shipwreck what we're doing," Dean Schmidt, supervisor, told Rupp at the Tuesday meeting.
"I think I had the right," Rupp said.
"You back-doored us," Schmidt stated.
"That was not my intent," Rupp responded. She said she was concerned for the program and added that the trust built through continuity of service is important for a program that serves woman and children from prenatal through age 5.
Rupp said that some of the things said about her and the PHD staff have been untrue and there has been intimidation.
"This has been hell for the last three months," Rupp said.
When asked who had made the statements she referred to, Rupp said she would not say in an open meeting but would answer that question if a supervisor wanted to ask her privately.
Terry Graybill, supervisor, said it was the understanding of the supervisors and the public that all the programs were under one umbrella
Ron Wetherell, chairman, asked that Rupp work with the hospital during the transition.
Jeff Simonsen, supervisor, noted that the supervisors had approved the growth of PHD programs to its present level. The supervisors had agreed to add staff or hours when a grant became available.
It made sense to bring in programs that benefited the citizens when there was funding available from a source other than county tax. By combining multiple services through grant funding, the administration of the programs can become more cost effective.
Supervisors expressed the concern that by dismantling the combined package, the attempted transfer of the services could fail.
"That might be the intent," Schmidt said.