Councilmember Winburn's plan to keep city health clinics open

Health clinic debate in City Council

CINCINNATI - Cincinnati City Council voted against expanding a dental clinic in Avondale and now there's a possibility all of the health clinics in Cincinnati will close their doors, but one councilmember says he has a solution.  

Monday, Republican Councilmember Charlie Winburn proposed an "Adopt a Health Clinic Initiative." The proposal encourages the city's five major hospitals - Cincinnati Children's Hospital, University Hospital, The Christ Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital and Mercy Hospital Western Hills to adopt one city health clinic each.

The proposal asks the hospitals to contract at least $1.6 million in funding to help keep each clinic open per year.

"If you close the health clinics they are going to rush to the emergency room, they're going to rush to the hospital for a tooth ache, what ever it may be, they are going to clog up the emergency room they are not going to have enough doctors to handle this major catastrophe," said Councilmember Charlie Winburn.

Darnel Jones, a Madisonville resident, attended Monday's press conference. He said he has relied on the services from the Elm Street Health Clinic for years and he's worried if it shuts down.

"I'm part of the working poor, I don't make enough hours to actually pay for everything," Jones said. "Without that additional safety net, I wouldn't know what to do."

It will cost Cincinnati taxpayers $8 million a year to keep the health clinics open. If Winburn's plan works, that will cut $8 million off the city's $33 million budget deficit. Jones said he's more worried about the hospitals embracing Winburn's plan because they have budget issues as well.

If one more conservative is voted into council this fall, the clinics will be totally cut, according to Councilman Winburn. He's said he will not vote to eliminate the health clinics, despite his conservative collegues.

"We're one vote away from closing the health clinics and if there's a new election year and a new person wins and you get five votes, they will be able to save $24 million over the next few years by closing the city health clinics," he said.

Councilman Winburn's proposal comes just weeks after Cincinnati City Council voted 5 to 4 against applying for a $650,000 federal funded grant that would have expanded a dental clinic in Avondale. Although there was no guarantee the city would have received this grant, a yes vote would have put Cincinnati in the running against other cities to receive federal funding for at least three years.

Initially, Winburn voted not in favor, but said he would consider changing his vote, if Cincinnati Health Board Officials could convince him after the three years the price of the expansion wouldn't fall back on the taxpayers.

Winburn has not presented his plan to keep the five current health clinics open to local hospitals yet, but he said he requested a meeting with the hospitals' presidents.

Currently, Cincinnati councilmembers are on summer recess. Members will resume in August.

Stay with 9 News and WCPO.com for updates on this story and the outcome of the city health care debate.

Click on here to see in detail Councilmember Charlie Winburn's proposal.

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