Budget Cuts Jeopardize Georgians' Health
Beth Heath's biggest frustration as Madison County nurse manager is when she can't help someone, when she has to turn someone away.
"There are patients that leave [the health department], and we worry about them because we don't know what they're going to do," said Heath.
As Georgia's public health resources shrink, so does the list of conditions the health departments can treat. Since Heath has been with the health department, ear infections, pink eye, sinusitis, and sore throat have dropped from the list. The Northeast health district used to have a nurse that provided acute care, but she was laid off.
While Georgia's population has grown by an estimated 1.5 million since 2002, the public health nursing workforce is nearly 22% smaller. In 2002, the state had 1,817 filled public health nursing positions; today there are 1,423, according to Meshell McCloud, assistant chief nurse for the Georgia Department of Community Health, Division of Public Health (DPH) Office of Nursing.