Concerns over County public health
May 26, 2022
As of March 1, 2022, the Columbia County Public Health Department has a new director. This director was chosen by the county commissioners over a qualified individual who had been working for the department for 3.5 years and would have loved to apply, but was not made aware while she was on maternity leave that the position was open. Standard procedure for hiring at the department of health is for the board of health to approve both a job description and an advertisement for the position. Once the board approves these things, they are given to the county commissioners to approve and start the hiring process. This time around, there was never a motion, resolution, or mention of approving a job description or advertisement at all. The commissioners did not ask for any input from public health officials or our public health officer, Dr. Lewis Neace, before hiring the new director.
All of this is concerning, even before knowing that the person hired for this position was featured in a national news article first published in the Washington Post on November 6, 2021 entitled, “The Vaccine Countdown” by Eli Saslow. The article recounts the new director’s decision to leave her job at Columbia County Health System rather than comply with WA state’s health-care worker vaccine mandate. Yes, you read that right. The head of our public health department, who is in charge of informing the public of current health guidelines and overseeing vaccine administrations, left her job at CCHS rather than follow the healthcare guidelines put forth by medical experts. This does not instill confidence regarding the safety of the community if another public health crisis were to occur.
According to the county, you don’t have to be vaccinated in order to be hired, but specific grants that are held at public health require anyone who may come into contact with WIC clients be vaccinated. Due to the size of our public health office, everyone who works there has not just the potential, but the probability of coming into contact with those individuals.
The lack of transparency during this process is unsettling. With the commissioners’ decision to go about hiring in this way, we’ve lost another good public employee who would have liked the opportunity to apply for this job. Please don’t let this mismanagement of human resources by the Columbia County Commissioners go unnoticed.