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Director: West Point Health Department needs support

By James Morton

jmorton@civitasmedia.com

West Point City Hall.
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/web1_STOCK-West-PointFIX.jpgWest Point City Hall. File photo

WEST POINT — The District 4 Health director spoke to West Point City Council members Tuesday evening about a dismal future for the city’s health department.

Dr. Olugbenga Obasanjo explained West Point’s health department must make changes in order to keep serving its citizens. He told council members that Troup County is unique because it has three different health departments throughout the county — LaGrange, Hogansville and West Point — whereas most counties only have one department.

The fiscal year 2014 budget for the West Point health department was $6,400. This included overhead, communication bills, lab fees and equipment upkeep, Obasanjo said. But the current budget will not sustain the department, according to its projections.

Despite an income of $3,714, the remaining $2,682 in the budget is not enough to sustain costs that will be incurred from unexpected building expenses. Obasanjo told council members that a $2,600 cooling system fix and a $3,600 flooring repair would put the health department over budget.

Obasanjo suggested three options to council members.

The first was for city council to do nothing and allow the current budget to carry into the next fiscal year.

The second was for council to consolidate the West Point Health Department with the Troup County Health Department in LaGrange. This option would involve transporting patients from West Point to LaGrange for their appointments. Obasanjo told council members that an advantage to this plan is the Troup County Health Department could offer more services to West Point residents.

Mayor Drew Ferguson agreed that the current health department location wasn’t inviting.

“The location right now is not really favorable to growth,” he said. “The facility is incredibly old … it certainly is not a welcoming facility. It’s more like an equipment shed out there.”

The third suggestion was “to proactively work to increase the utilization of the (West Point) health department.”

Several suggestions were given for how to increase the health department’s utilization for the area.

Obasanjo’s first suggestion was that the health department be moved to a more central location in the city.

“Where it is right now just isn’t working,” Obasanjo said. “It’s out of the way.”

He also suggested that the city “aggressively market” the health department. This would involve signs in churches and community centers, social media campaigns, utilizing regular media and simple word of mouth by elected officials.

“Aggressively go out there and let people know there is a health department,” Obasanjo said. “There are services. Use it.”

Obasanjo suggested council should come back after a six month period and evaluate the third option’s success.

“There will be some expense to move in (to a new location in West Point), but I think if we do it right — if we pick the right location, if we do the right kind of marketing — it will be worth it,” Obasanjo said.

Councilwoman Gloria Marshall echoed some of the problems cited by Obasanjo, saying that many of her constituents come to her and say they prefer the health department in LaGrange due to better care, and that they simply do not know where the West Point Health Department is located.

Earlier this year the Hogansville Health Department was closed in favor of its residents being transported to LaGrange for health care. It is currently being used as a fire department and will eventually become a Boys and Girls Club. Obasanjo said that none of the strategies he mentioned for West Point were considered before the closing of the Hogansville Health Department.

The West Point Health Department served about 36 patients last year.

James Morton is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2154.