Cuts to jobs, services at Martin County Health Department

STUART, Fla. - The news came as a surprise to Steven DeLuca.

"It was a shock to me to read about it," he said.

An article on TCPalm alerted the Jensen Beach resident that the Martin County Health Department won't provide primary, pediatric and maternity care next year.

"I'm not real happy about the cuts because it will involve my treatment, I'm sure," said DeLuca, 60.

The retired movie set designer has gone to the health department for primary care for five years.  As it restructures, he's uncertain who will care for him next year and how much he'll pay.

"It makes me very nervous," he said.

The health department says it cannot continue to support its programs because of state and federal funding cuts. Health Officer Karlette Peck says funding was $ 1 million dollars less this year than last.

"There really was no a better alternative to this," she said.

The alternative is Florida Community Health Centers . The non-profit based in Indiantown is moving into the health department building in Stuart soon, and it will pick up the slack on services.

"It probably will increase access to health care on the east coast of Martin County because Florida Community Health Centers takes a variety of health insurance plans," said Peck.

The health department will lay off an undisclosed number of clinical and support staff. But Peck points to a contract saying the non-profit will give her staff the first chance at jobs.

Through the uncertainty, DeLuca is hoping for a seamless transition.

"I hope it doesn't as drastically as I'm anticipating it might. We'll see what happens," he said.

The health department will still continue to offer some of its core functions, including dental care, school health services and family planning.

Patients will get letters in the mail from their insurance, HMO or Medicaid providers on how to transition to the new health care provider.

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