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Board issues apology

The Beaufort County Board of Health and the Beaufort County Health Department director received an apology from the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners for recent statements made by some county leaders.

The commissioners approved, by a 5-2 vote, a motion by Commissioner Robert Cayton, who also serves on the health board, asking the commissioners to “offer an apology to the Beaufort County Health Director and the Beaufort County Board of Health.”

Commissioners Stan Deatherage and Hood Richardson, who have repeatedly criticized the health board and director’s actions regarding some programs, cast the dissenting votes.

“I will not apologize for anything we do up here,” Deatherage said.

The vote authorizing the apology came only after heated discussion among some of its members about the local health department’s involvement in a federally funded program to provide services for poor, pregnant women and young children.

The $237,682 program, funded by Medicaid, is designed to lower health-care costs by preventing emergency-room trips by pregnant women and young children, according to information presented to the commissioners It will enable health department workers to identify clients at the highest risk for health issues and manage their care so they are healthier, have healthier pregnancies and earlier identify and manage health concerns for their children, the commissioners were told.

This effort should ultimately save Medicaid dollars by preventing unnecessary medical care, including costly emergency room visits, the commissioners were told.

Monday’s vote authorizing the apology came after a motion that called for county Health Director Roxanne Holloman to be disciplined failed by a 5-2 vote. Deatherage and Richardson cast votes in favor of the motion.

At their November meeting, the commissioners authorized Holloman to begin work on the program, which targets poor, pregnant women and young children from Beaufort and Hyde counties and who are eligible for Medicaid.

At that meeting, Holloman asked the commissioners’ permission to hire a social-worker supervisor to handle the caseload and supervise the department’s two social workers in the new Medicaid Managed Care, at a cost of $41,363 plus benefits, and buy a vehicle, at a cost of $22,000, to be used by the new program.

Funds for both expenses are provided by the new program and not county dollars, the commissioners were told.

At the time, Richardson and Deatherage cast votes against the program.

In November, Richardson said the program is racist because it prevents poor women covered by the program — mostly Hispanics and other minorities — from receiving care from the county’s private obstetricians and gynecologists.

In subsequent meetings, Richardson and Deatherage continued to question the validity of the contract signed by Holloman with Access East Inc., a private, nonprofit corporation with links to Vidant Health, formerly University Health Systems of Eastern North Carolina for program funds.

Richardson has repeatedly called the contract fraudulent and the Board of Health negligent in its oversight of the program.

“I have asked for and have never been furnished with factual evidence that the contract between Access East and the Beaufort County Health Department was given sufficient due diligence by either the Board of Health or the Beaufort County Board of Commissioners,” he said.

Cayton, during discussion Monday night, cited minutes of health-board meetings during which the program was discussed, adding that the commissioners were “notified by the director. We studied the program. We encouraged her to move forward with the program.”

Cayton said the contract was signed with Access East because the state had designated that organization to oversee distribution of the program funds.

“Because of that, we can assure you that the Board of Health has not neglected its responsibility and there was no fraud involved,” he said.