Kanawha health department administrator to serve in Putnam Count - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Kanawha health department administrator to serve in Putnam County role

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Lolita Kirk will take over as the Putnam County health department's senior interim administrator. Lolita Kirk will take over as the Putnam County health department's senior interim administrator.
Lolita Kirk, Rahul Gupta and Joseph Hayes answer questions at the emergency meeting Lolita Kirk, Rahul Gupta and Joseph Hayes answer questions at the emergency meeting
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The Kanawha-Charleston health department's director of administration will take over as the Putnam County health department's senior interim administrator after operation irregularities and budgetary concerns surfaced.

Both departments held an emergency meeting June 13, where board members voted to appoint Lolita Kirk with the Kanawha-Charleston health department to the new position.

Kirk still will serve in her capacity for the Kanawha-Charleston health department but will report directly to the Putnam County board of health to help determine funding needs and establish financial policies.

She also will determine if there is a need for emergency aid. Kirk will start her new position June 14.

"We volunteered to help them as a neighbor should help a neighbor," she said.

In the emergency meeting, board members said they estimate the budgetary shortfall to be around $186,000 plus the $30,000 loan the county commission gave it.

"We have a multifaceted approach," said Kanawha-Charleston chief health officer Rahul Gupta. "We will do a financial assessment, an organizational assessment and go to the drawing board. It's just like if a patient comes in. First, you stop the bleeding, resuscitate and make sure the patient lives. … We will assess how much we need. Is it more than $186,000? Less than $186,000? See where the bleeding is, put a tourniquet there, without trying to cut services."

Samuel Henson, medical director of the Putnam County health department said there have not been cuts to services except for injections the department must pay for itself, such as injections for shingles.

However, Henson said most of the shots are furnished by the state, except for injections like shingles.

Putnam health department board member Joseph Hayes clarified that the county's health department isn't going anywhere.

"The paramount concern is the health and wellbeing of Putnam County," he said. "We want Lita to have complete autonomy to find out and report back to us and we can fix it. We're not merging two health departments. We will still be the Putnam County board of health. … This is strictly an administrative function to get back on track and serve the public the way it's supposed to serve the public."

Joel McKinney, who has been on the job for three months as the health department's administrator, clarified at the meeting that the budgetary shortfall is not his fault.

Hayes echoed this, saying McKinney inherited the irregularities and brought them to the board's attention.   

"He came in cold, trying to fix it but he doesn't have the benefit of someone with 20 years of experience," Hayes said, noting the irregularities included bills not being paid and misplaced priorities with bills.

McKinney, who will report to Kirk, additionally said he is fine with whatever the board decides in the future.

"I want to make this place excellent and if it's not me being administrator, that's OK," he said. "I want this place running at 100 percent … We are here to provide services to the public and it's what I've always wanted to do. It's one of the reasons I took this job."