The city has hit a snag in its efforts to close its public Preventative Medicine Clinic and shift services to Horizon Health Center. The clinic tests and treats residents for sexually transmitted diseases.
The state Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) has yet to approve a sexually transmitted disease (STD) grant application for Horizon Health to take in those patients at their current facility.
Meanwhile, according to Dorothy Wojcik, program manager for the Preventative Medicine Clinic, the city has been paying “double rent” on the clinic’s 115 Christopher Columbus Drive location since the spring, because they are now paying month to month. The city has not signed a new lease with the clinic’s landlord, she said, because the future of the program is uncertain.
“Our lease expired on May 31, 2011. We have been paying double rent since then.” – Dorothy Wojcik
Because the clinic has been barred from hiring new staff, a vacant clinical nursing position is currently being filled by a temp who, Wojcik said, gets $10 an hour more than would a full-time salaried nurse. However, the nurse would receive benefits.
It was earlier this year that the city proposed saving money in the municipal budget by closing the clinic and contracting STD testing and treatment out.
According to City Business Administrator Jack Kelly, the city still plans to shift its STD services to Horizon, but there is no specific timetable for the transition to be completed.
Number 1 in syphilis
According to the Hudson County HIV/AIDS Planning Council, more than 100 people in the county are diagnosed with HIV each year. As of 2009, the latest year for which statistics are available, the total number of recorded HIV cases in Hudson County was 4,623. That is up from 4,541 cases in 2007 and 4,439 recorded cases in 2006.
Other STDs are also on the rise in Jersey City, Wojcik said last week. Citing data from New Jersey’s STD Control Program, Wojcik said that in 2010 the city ranked No. 1 in syphilis infections. She also said that between 2009 and 2010 rates of gonorrhea jumped 30 percent, while rates of chlamydia were up by 20 percent in the same period.
In April, clinic employees were informed that the facility would close in May and their jobs would be terminated.
But Horizon and the city had not taken several necessary steps to smoothly transition services from the Preventative Medicine Clinic to Horizon. Over the summer, the City Council intervened to ensure that the clinic would remain open while Horizon applied for state health grants and made other preparations to take over the city’s STD services.
Meanwhile, the clinic is spending extra money and employees are unclear about its future while the city continues to negotiate with Horizon.
“We have a job to do. This is public health,” said Wojcik. “We have a responsibility to our residents and that is our legal obligation.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at firstname.lastname@example.org.