BROOKSVILLE — Ten employees of the Hernando County Health Department were told Thursday that they no longer have jobs.
News of the layoffs came just days before many of the staffers were to move into the department's new 57,000-square-foot facility on Forest Oaks Boulevard in Spring Hill.
Health Department administrator Elizabeth Callaghan said Friday that the layoffs, which include both supervisory and support staffers, are a result of belt-tightening because of cuts in state and federal subsidies and other grants.
Callaghan said the layoffs are the first her department, which includes about 80 employees, has had to make in 30 years.
"It's regrettable to lose staff, especially at a time when there is such a big need in our community," Callaghan said. "It couldn't have come at a worse time."
The layoffs extend to all areas of the department and include positions in primary health care, purchasing, health education, transportation and clerical.
Callaghan said the downsizing, which also involved shuffling employees to other areas of the department, was strategically planned to minimize the effects on services that are crucial to public health.
The Health Department's $7 million budget comes from a variety of sources, including federal, state and county governments; public and private grants; insurance and managed care agreements. But recent cuts in federal and state spending for health services meant that Callaghan had to trim staff in order to meet her department's 2011-12 budget goal.
Callaghan said the layoffs come at a time when public health needs are continually growing, particularly with the bad economy. The $14 million Forest Oaks facility, which is due to open to the public Sept. 26, is a major part of the county's effort to meet that need, she said.
Callaghan said the layoffs will not affect the department's operating hours.
"It's absolutely going to be a big change," she said, "but we'll get by."
Logan Neill can be reached at (352) 848-1435 or firstname.lastname@example.org.