The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 26, 2013

Sickly results

Department of Health and Human Resources must change

— The results of a study that examined West Virginia’s health services was released last weekend.

It was ugly.

Sickly even.

“West Virginia is in the midst of a health care crisis,” the report stated.

The 116-page report detailed 78 recommendations for revamping the  Department of Health and Human Resources at a potential savings of nearly $284 million over five years.

It’s no secret, the DHHR is a mess.

It’s been a mess for some time.

Millions of dollars have been wasted.

The employee turnover rates are staggering.

Compared to a national average of 3.3 percent, department turnover is 30 percent, the audit said. It is estimated that more than 600 positions remain vacant at any given time. Overtime spending grew from $5.2 million in 2010 to $7.1 million last year.

Efficiency suffers in such a scenario.

It must feel like scooping buckets of water from a sinking ship on a daily basis.

The auditors continued, stating: “West Virginia’s health care agencies are largely focused on day-to-day operations and emergencies, with little capacity to collaborate on new efforts or the broader vision of improving health outcomes in West Virginia.”

Addressing these issues will require much more than throwing money at it.

We do enough of that already.

West Virginia ranks No. 4 among states for public health care funding per person, and residents have the 10th-highest private health insurance premiums.

An overhaul is badly needed.

We can’t afford to burn taxpayer money while watching the quality of our health disintegrate.

Internal policy changes are needed. Legislative action may also be required.

But putting a Band-Aid on a open wound won’t suffice.

Our health crisis requires attention.

Because it’s in critical condition.