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Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department nurse director Sue McKisic addresses the commission at its Thursday, April 14 meeting. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

Health department urgently seeks funds for renovations to remain in compliance with state regulations

BUCKHANNON – The Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department will require several renovations to their building to remain in compliance with state regulations and continue to operate.

Sue McKisic, nurse director at the Upshur-Buckhannon Health Department, attended the April 14 Upshur County Commission meeting to request financial aid to complete the renovations on the Locust Street building.

“I don’t like to ask for anything, but now I am begging for the citizens of Upshur County and the staff of the health department,” McKisic said. “We thought we had grant money at one time to work on our building, but we didn’t have ownership of the building. We have put money aside and we did receive one bid — the total bid was $455,000 and the base bid was $298,601 – and alternate number one was close to $76,000.”

McKisic previously approached the commission in July 2021 requesting the county transfer ownership of the building to the health department so the agency could qualify for grants that would pay for building renovations.

She said the department can contribute $150,000 towards the construction, which they accumulated by purchasing private vaccines and billing insurance. The department also covered the costs of hiring WYK Associates for the architecture work and paying for the new furnishings that will go into the newly renovated rooms.

“I did some research, and our building was built in the 1950s; it has strong bones. It just needs updating to better serve our citizens and offer more services,” McKisic said. “We need to become compliant with ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and ICAR (Infection Control and Assessment Response) which is a new thing the state rolled out to us mid-March.”

She said ICAR will be conducting the health department’s first audit this coming Tuesday, April 19, and building will not be compliant with several requirements.

“They did tell us that we need to have a separate med room – it cannot be in a patient room, which it is now,” McKisic explained. “It cannot be in a room where people have lunch or where anything is washed, which it is now. The exam room can’t be used for that, and we do wash our dishes often in our exam room, so that is definitely out of compliance.”

Their current building does not have a handicapped-accessible bathroom and the staff eat at their desks, which is not under compliance, McKisic said.

“We’ve been very fortunate with COVID getting extra monies, but once those grants are over, we’re going to be back to bare bones and meeting our budget,” she said. “It’s going to be much stricter than it is right now so we can’t really pay through financing or anything.”

The health department had to rent office space in a building on Mud Lick Road from the City of Buckhannon for sanitation and training because their Locust Street location does not have the space available.

“We started having more people come in and do case investigations and contact-traces we just didn’t have the space,” McKisic said. “If we can get the renovation done, our plan is to have everybody moved back under one roof, and [one of the two sanitarians] is only here through June 30 because his position is grant-funded.”

James Swiger with WYK Associates, the architecture firm, said the renovation project was bid out to City Construction in Clarksburg.

“The base bid proposal was $298,601, and that was basically the bare minimum; that was making two exam rooms and dividing one office,” Swiger said. “That alternate number one was $75,682, which was splitting the storage area in the rear of the building into three new rooms which will be the two offices that are displaced by adding the exam rooms.”

The rest of alternate number quote would cover relocating the existing gas fire unit heater and associated gas piping and installing a heating and cooling system for the new office spaces.

“In my opinion, the base bid and alternate number one would be the minimum that should be done,” Swiger said.

The rest of the bid included alternate number two and alternate number three. Alternate number two included installing new acoustical ceiling tile and grid system in five rooms. It also included installing new LED light fixtures in nine rooms for a total of $36,361. Alternate number 3 included adding a new partition to the north side of the waiting room and cutting a wall opening from the existing copy room into a new file storage room and replacing the storefront window and the main entry door of the building for $43,931.

“They will tell us what we’re not in compliance with, and we do not know how long we have to come into compliance,” McKisic said. “I’m hoping I can tell them we’re in the process of remodeling and we can come into compliance at a certain point in time. [A representative with one of the regulatory agencies] will not discuss the repercussions if we are not in compliance with me on the phone. She said she would rather bring that up to me face-to-face.”

The commission said they would consider the health department’s request when they have their meeting April 21, where they will discuss allocating American Rescue Plan Act funds.

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