Health offices may merge |

Health offices may merge

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Merging health departments in Summit and Wasatch counties may make financial sense. Local officials have discussed the move with Wasatch County Manager Mike Davis.

Wasatch County currently has the smallest health department in the state. Now might be a good time to consolidate the departments because Summit County Health Department Director Steve Jenkins said he plans to retire April 30. Jenkins is one of Summit County’s highest paid employees.

Because the two health departments have some common interests a Wasatch County councilperson approached Davis about consolidation.

"There are core things that health departments are required to do for the counties. So the thought is that by combining services we get an economy of scale and maybe that’s a good thing," Davis said. "It’s not a question we have answered. It’s just something we’re taking a look at at this point."

Wasatch County Health Department Director Phil Wright has also announced his plans to retire in 2010.

"There may be nothing that comes of it, but we thought it was worth taking a look. We have an opportunity here that we maybe wouldn’t have normally," Davis said. "Maybe there is some money to save here if a position could cover both counties. Directors are fairly high paying positions."

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Jenkins’ annual salary is about $120,000 plus benefits.

"If there was a cost savings it may be something we need to look at," Davis said.

Mergers of county health departments are a trend throughout Utah.

"There would be some administrative savings because you would only need one health director," Summit County Manager Bob Jasper said. "Maybe it would be a better way of serving the region."

Some Wasatch County residents are already served by the health department at Quinn’s Junction, he said.

"We end up serving a lot of people who live in Wasatch and work in the Park City area," Jasper said. "They’ll come by and use some of our health department services."

Both communities could benefit from combining the departments, Jenkins said.

"I’m not opposed to it. I think if there was ever a time to do it, now is the time," Jenkins said in a telephone interview Friday. "Two health department officers are leaving so this might be the time to do it."

Consolidating the health departments could result in a savings for taxpayers, Jenkins said.

"You’d have one health officer so you’d save $100,000 off the top," Jenkins said. "You’d also have one nursing director so you’d save one salary there."

The departments could pool their resources and use the health building at Quinn’s Junction as a headquarters, Jenkins said.

"There is a little bit of savings there," Jenkins said.

Duties of the Summit County Health Department include providing immunizations to children and tracking the rate of sexually transmitted diseases. Health officials also conduct environmental inspections of restaurants, sewer and water systems. The county has already begun its search for a replacement for Jenkins.

Jenkins has worked for Summit County for nearly 41 years. Jasper said he will work with members of the health board in Summit County to hire a new director.

"We’re going to advertise in medical journals and we’re going to allow time for the board and I to make a joint decision," Jasper said. "I’ll sit in with their interviews and when we are done with all the interviews they’ll decide who they think is best. If I agree, it’s done."