Commissioners Vote To Keep Douglas County Health Center Open
On Tuesday, Douglas County officials voted on a number of health center resolutionsPhoto: Video by kmtv.com
Omaha, NE -- On Tuesday, the future of the Douglas County Health Center took center stage as commissioners decided its fate.
After hours of listening to employees, hospital officials and patient families, the board decided to keep the facility open and in the hands of the county.
Anne Marie Hoeft is one of the 500 employees at the health center and Community Mental Health Center.
"We develop really good relationships together," said Hoeft. "It's just like bonding, like a family. When you come to work, it doesn't feel like work. It's like visiting family."
Hoeft said lately, there has been lingering uncertainty at work.
"It's very unsettling for the residents, not knowing what's going to happen," she said. "Change is hard for a lot of them."
The county spends $9 million a year to run the center.
A handful of resolutions that were under consideration would have closed, sold or outsourced the health center.
The goal was to make up for a $12 million budget gap.
"I'm scared I'll lose my job," said employee Marlo Ibarra. "I'm afraid they'll outsource. On any given day, there are 290 people that wake up the health center. That's 290 people (who may not know) where they'll sleep."
Those fears were eliminated as the day went on.
On Tuesday morning, the board killed a motion to close and sell the facility. During the afternoon, the debate turned to what agency would run the center.
After hours of testimony, the commissioners voted not to outsource services.
They also decided that a slew of recommendations from a consultant's study, to reduce costs, would be put in place.
"(It was) wonderful to hear so much from the public," said commissioner Clare Duda. "The sentiment of the board, as expressed through voting today, is we want to keep letting our great employees do the job they do so well."
It was a vote that Hoeft said gives her hope.
"We feel saved, I guess, for now," she said. "(I) hope everything is positive, and we can work out a resolution."
In two weeks, the Board of Trustees will decide if they'll bring in another consultant to implement the recommendations of the first consultant.
They'll also decide how to prioritize the new recommendations.