January 24, 2011
On March 1, Broward County Health Department will privatize the provision of primary medical care, mental health care, and case counseling to uninsured HIV/AIDS patients.
According to officials, hundreds of health department patients whose care is paid for by federal Ryan White grants will be switched to doctors and case managers at other, as-yet-unidentified, agencies.
"Over time, the community has developed the capacity through other providers to provide this care," said department spokesperson Candy Sims. "It is now time for us, as public health, to [instead] fill unmet needs and gaps in the service delivery system." The department will continue to offer HIV services related to dental care and pharmacy assistance, large-scale testing, and prevention efforts, and it will still serve inmates and pregnant women. It also plans to launch a new state-funded program to keep HIV-positive people taking their drugs daily, which no other agency does on a major basis, said Sims.
Although patients have not been formally notified, some who have found out about the changes are worried about service disruption and complications. "My biggest concern is ... a lot of people are not going to get the information in time to make adjustments," said Edward Bolden, a patient at the department's HIV center in Pompano Beach, which is expected to close.
Leaders of HIV agencies said Broward County oversees approximately $15 million in annual Ryan White grants, and it has enough time to hire new providers and arrange for an orderly transition by March 1. "There won't be people going without service," said Kathleen Cannon, chair of a countywide Ryan White funding committee and chief operating officer at Broward House, a non-profit likely to begin providing some services formerly offered by the department.