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Friday, November 6th, 2009

More staff hired to handle epidemic

By Shelley Grieshop
The local health board this week approved the hiring of two full-time staff members to help the agency cope with challenges related to the outbreak of H1N1 flu.
Several nurses also have been added to the payroll on a temporary basis to aid with vaccine clinics.
Jason Place of Middlepoint was hired as a public health preparedness planner/trainer. Health department Administrator Dale Palmer, who recommended the hirings, said a major portion of Place's job will involve managing grant funding and training others for duties related to H1N1 emergency planning.
Place's annual salary is $45,000 and is being paid through grant funding.
The board also approved the hiring of Heather Marbaugh of Celina, who will serve dual roles as clerk for the environmental department and the vital statistics division. Sixty percent of her time will be spent helping sanitarians with environmental duties, Palmer said.
Marbaugh will be paid approximately $13 per hour, which will be taken from the general fund.
Palmer also hired - with the board's blessing - a number of temporary employees including a full-time clerk and several "casual" nurses who agreed to come in as needed for vaccine clinics.
The health department is using $351,000 in federal grant money to pay for the extra manpower needed for H1N1-related tasks. The funding is through four Public Health Emergency Response (PHER) grants ranging in dollar amounts from $81,719 to $161,119. Besides funding for nurses, the grants also pay salaries for epidemiologists, disease surveillance coordinators and lab work.
County Health Commissioner Dr. Philip Masser said the department appreciates the patience being shown by the public as staff members work to answer questions and respond to everyone's needs. He realizes how frustrating it is for everyone, he added.
"It's really been a challenge not knowing how much vaccine we'll have on our doorstep on any given day," he said. "We do appreciate the staff's hard work and the public's understanding."
In other business, board members:
• Approved first reading of changes to the county's household sewage system regulations, which were adopted in 2007. The changes will mandate that sewer system installers provide the health department with "as-built" records at the time of inspection; and reports regarding dates of service; and data on wastewater effluent testing.
Penalties and other consequences are being reviewed by environmental staff and will be presented to the board in the future.
• Approved third and final reading for the 2010 schedule of health department fees.
• Changed next month's meeting date to noon Dec. 9 at the office in the Central Services Building in Celina.
• Learned the health department will close on Wednesday in observance of Veterans' Day and on Nov. 26 and 27 for the Thanksgiving Day holiday.
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