Cincinnati Mayor John Cranley spars with health department over bid for federal grant

Letter cited in closing Neighborhood Health Care

CINCINNATI – Mayor John Cranley is mad at the city health department and could block it from applying for a federal grant that Neighborhood Health Care lost when the health department undermined its bid to renew it last year.

Last week, Cranley cited a "spiteful" letter about NHC from the health department to the federal agency considering NHC's application for the grant.

The hard feelings could boil over this week, with the health department and city council facing a Wednesday federal deadline to submit the bid. Council's Budget and Finance Committee takes up the matter Monday.

Last week, Cranley directed Interim City Manager Scott Stiles to research and answer 24 questions about the health department's request to apply to the federal Health Resources and Services Administration for the $1.4 million grant to replace NHC services. Most of Cranley's questions addressed the city's liability and possible impact on the city budget.

Neighborhood Health Care closed its seven health centers on Dec. 30 after losing the grant. The "service area competition" is open to federally qualified health centers (FQHC).

In a letter to city council, Cranley said he doesn't think the health department should expand services when the city faces a budget deficit and local non-profits like Talbert House and HealthPoint are willing and able to take over.

"Our number one concern in addressing the current health service area grant should be the 20,000 patients who lost access to health care (when NHC closed)," Cranley wrote to council. "We know that both Talbert House and HealthPoint have applied for the grant and are capable of providing service to these patients. Since a significant number of the patients live outside of the City of Cincinnati, it makes sense for a regional healthcare entity to provide this service."

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