JOHNSTOWN - Due to decreased staff and less activity in the late afternoon, the Fulton County Public Health Department wants to close one hour early.
The Board of Supervisors' Human Services Committee recently supported a change in the hours of the 17-employee department, which is housed at the County Services Complex on Route 29. Hours at the Public Health Department would go from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., to 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The department has operated until 5 p.m. for more than 30 years.
Board Chairman Michael F. Gendron suggested the board try the shortened hour for a year.
The hours change will be reviewed the full board Aug.13.
"We have reductions in our support staff," county Public Health Director Denise Frederick told the committee at the County Office Building on Tuesday.
She said the reductions make it difficult to staff the department between 8 and 9 a.m., and 4 to 5 p.m. She said the public health nurses only work until 4 p.m.
"We are the only department [in the county] still providing direct health care," Frederick said.
She also said there is "minimal patient care activity" at her agency between 4 to 5 p.m., and the department has closed at 4 p.m. during the summer "with no impact on patient service delivery."
Frederick said there is sometimes only one or two people are present in the last hour, answering phones or doing paperwork.
Not all county officials liked the concept of the Public Health Department closing earlier.
"This is a major diversion from county policy now," said county Administrative Officer Jon Stead.
The Montgomery County Public Health Department said Wednesday its hours are only until 4 p.m. weekdays.
"I think it's difficult for access, sometimes," Stead said, referring to the Montgomery County situation.
Bleecker Supervisor David Howard said shortening the public health office hours could set a precedent.
"I think there's a lot of implications here," agreed Stead. "In my opinion, it's going to start an avalanche with all other departments and the union coming here [wanting shortened] hours."
Michael Anich covers Johnstown and Fulton County news. He can be reached at email@example.com.