Cincinnati Questions Ohio's Decision To Pull STD Grant, Concerned About Public Health In City
The Cincinnati Health Department recently learned that the Ohio Department of Health is planning to pull a $250,000 STD grant the City has had for 40 years. The City will continue to operate its STD clinic at a price of $1.2 million; however, the Ohio Department of Health's decision to remove the STD grant from the Cincinnati Health Department will mean STD education, awareness and contact investigation activities will be handled separately, by an entity with no experience in STD treatment and control.
The Cincinnati Health Department questions the Ohio Department of Health's shoddy scoring and review process which refuses to correct errors made by reviewers, and is concerned about the lack of time to develop a clear STD treatment transition plan placing Cincinnatians' health at risk.
Health Commissioner Noble Maseru, the Cincinnati Board of Health and the City of Cincinnati Primary Care Board have expressed these concerns through a series of letters and accompanying documentation. They include:
- The City's program is showing results. For example, the number of Syphilis cases in Hamilton County has decreased 10 percent, even as the numbers of Syphilis cases are on the rise nationwide. In November 2011 (the most recent data available), there were 7 cases of Syphilis, which was the lowest number of reported cases in Hamilton County in 22 months.
- The Ohio Department of Health has made a haphazard decision to pull the grant without a workable transition plan. Since no entity was identified to take over the STD grant until mid-December, there was no 60-day notification.
- Historically the grant has performed well. The City received an 86 percent from the Ohio Department of Health on the 2011 STD grant application. City disease investigation workers have performed at a high level while carrying a case load 2-3 times greater than those in other regions. Based on previously reported disease investigation performance measures, the City's grant has performed consistently better than several other programs in the State, which have met fewer of the Ohio Department of Health's performance measures, yet have been funded for 2012.
- The Ohio Department of Health is requiring the majority of the 2012 grant funds go to an agency that has no experience with STD treatment and follow-up services, which places patients at risk who are in need of these services. The workers being assigned to perform STD control could have no experience handling this magnitude of case load or possess local expertise of the effected populations.
Cincinnati Health Commissioner Dr. Noble Maseru stated, "Our department is doing great work. The State has placed us in an extremely difficult situation. We have not been formally notified in writing that we're losing the grant, or that another agency has been funded to provide STD services for our region. However, verbally threatening to defund a program that has been in existence for 40 years, and that meets the requisite standards for funding, raises a question about the integrity of their grants administration. There is no justifiable reason to deprive our Department of a program that we've had for decades.
We have written to the Ohio Department of Health Director, Dr. Wymyslo, about our concerns. If he doesn't respond favorably, then we question why the playing field is made unequal, amounting to our citizens being disenfranchised by this process. Not having an entity that is experienced in treating and following STD patients is like placing a person in the middle of the ocean without a life preserver."