Prosser — The Benton-Franklin Health District is closing its Prosser office effective Sept. 19 because of a declining number of people seeking services.
The move means the two employees based at the office -- a receptionist and an immunization nurse, who are part-time -- are being laid off. The district provides childhood and adult immunizations and some environmental health services at the office at 310 Seventh Ave.
"It was a decision we didn't make lightly. We looked at the data really carefully and realized it would not be fiscally responsible to maintain an office when the clients aren't there anymore," said Heather Hill, supervisor of the immunization clinic.
About a decade ago, 15 to 20 clients were coming to the office each day for immunizations, Hill said. Today, the number has dropped to as low as two to three, she said, noting more clinics have opened in the Prosser area, increasing immunization access.
"It's obvious that immunizations are happening (in the area). We are very comfortable saying that the community is being served well," Hill said. "The health department's (view) is that we were there when we definitely were needed because there weren't other places to get immunizations in town."
The Prosser office is open for immunizations two days a week.
Some environmental health staffers also hold office hours there a few hours a week, typically dealing with septic system permits. The workers are based in Kennewick and none will be laid off as a result of the Prosser office closure.
Rick Dawson, one of the Environmental Health supervisors, said the number of people his staff serves in the Prosser area has increased, although more are coming to the Kennewick office instead of waiting for office hours in Prosser.
He said the change should make his section more efficient, freeing up more time for field work. "It is our goal to serve (people) in the very best possible way, and if they feel an impact on that from closing the office, let us know and we will do everything we can to lessen that and improve the service," Dawson told the Herald.
The health district still will provide immunizations through its Pasco and Kennewick clinics, and Prosser immunization records from the health district can be obtained by calling the Kennewick office at 460-4200. Environmental Health records for Prosser properties also are available by calling the same number, the district said.
The health district rents the Prosser office space.