The Oklahoma State Department of Health will permanently cut almost 200 employee positions, according to an announcement by the department on Dec. 8.
The first wave of cuts eliminated 37 unclassified positions at OSDH’s central office and county health departments statewide immediately following the announcement. The second wave of cuts will eliminate 161 classified positions in March 2018.
According to a press release, the 37 unclassified positions cut on December 8 include advance practice registered nurses, local emergency response coordinators, partnership consultants and staff in records evaluation and support, minority health, Office of Performance Management, and the Center for Health Innovation and Effectiveness.
“We definitely did see effects in our local area,” Mendy Spohn, Carter County Health Department administrative director, said.
“We’re working with the state department to figure out our next steps in terms of serving the public.”
When the second wave of cuts goes into effect, the Carter County Health Department will lose three employees, Love County will lose two, Marshall and Murray Counties will lose one each and Garvin County will lose two.
Tony Sellars, OSDH director of communications, said no sites are slated for closure and the state health department had about 2,000 employees before the Dec. 8 round of cuts.
“There’s all sorts of things being considered,” Sellars said. “We’re working on an assessment of what the impact is going to be.”
Sellars said there were multiple reasons for the decision, and the discovery of mismanaged OSHD funds in October was partially at fault. Former OSDH Commissioner Terry Cline resigned following the revelations and was replaced by the current Interim Commissioner Preston Doerflinger.
“While extremely difficult, this action is another step to bring the agency more in line with current work responsibilities and core service delivery,” Doerflinger stated in a press release. “Many of these positions involved duties that are already being performed or can be absorbed by other positions in the counties and central office.”
The department estimates the elimination of the classified positions will cost $3 million and save roughly $10.5 million annually.