Thursday, November 19th, 2020

Health district workers overwhelmed

By Leslie Gartrell

At Wednesday's meeting, Mercer County health board members discuss how to maximi. . .

CELINA - Health district staff are struggling to manage their time effectively as the ever-increasing workload caused by COVID-19 continues to pile on top of additional duties employees need to complete.
Health board members at Wednesday's meeting discussed how staff could use their time most effectively. Director of nursing Julia Shaffer said workers are bogged down primarily by phone calls and requests from patients to return to work.
She said a lot of time is spent calling people who test positive for COVID-19 who do not answer the phone and calling incorrect numbers. Staff also spend a lot of time processing requests for paperwork clearing someone to go back to work.
"We need to use our time effectively, and a lot of our time is being spent calling people and they're not answering, calling people we have the wrong number (for), answering the phones of people who want their quarantine letters and isolation letters," she said.
Health administrator Jason Menchhofer had mentioned the district along with all other Ohio local health departments will receive $200,000 in state funding, and board member Julie Fleck asked if some of the funding could be used to hire someone to help process return-to-work requests or make phone calls to ease the burden on staff.
"It's to the point that it doesn't even matter, I don't think, how many people we even get in here," Shaffer responded. "I could have the nurses go into a room by themselves and they could call and call and call, but we're constantly getting interrupted."
When interviewing people who test positive for COVID-19, staff ask when symptoms first appeared or the onset date. People are then asked to isolate for 10 days after the onset date. Learning the patient's onset date is a time-consuming task on top of other duties, she said.
However, Shaffer said some people have trouble identifying when their symptoms first began or may be asymptomatic. Others will lie about their onset date to return to work sooner.
Shaffer said The Ohio State University has transitioned from asking patients to isolate for 10 days from their symptom onset date to isolate from the date they were tested to simplify the process. She said something similar to OSU's guidance would make the situation easier for staff.
Board member Lisa Niekamp-Urwin suggested setting up an automated voicemail box for people requesting return-to-work paperwork to ease that workload.
In other business, environmental health director Michelle Kimmel expressed some discomfort with event organizers who claim to collaborate with the health district when they haven't.
The environmental health department must interpret orders from the governor and the state department of health, she said. Event organizers will usually call the health district to get the go-ahead for an event.
Kimmel said staff will explain what the current health orders are and advise organizers not to include an event that violates any existing health orders.
However, Kimmel said organizers will claim their event is "health-district approved" or that they worked with the district only to go against the guidance and violate health orders.
"I want the general public to take everything with a grain of salt," she said. "Any time they see something advertised that says 'health-department approved' or 'we got the OK from the health department,' don't necessarily take that as 100%. If there's ever any doubt, call us and check."
Board members also,
• renewed a contact with medical director Dr. Johnathan Winner not to exceed $5,200 a year from Nov. 1, 2020-Oct. 31, 2021.
• met in executive session for an hour to discuss employee time and compensation.
After exiting the session, board members approved compensating salaried staff at a straight overtime hourly rate, retroactive to March 1 through the end of this year, and to repeal any inconsistent legislation.
Additional online story on this date
CELINA - Despite an earlier concern, authorities have determined that no voter fraud was committed during the presidential election in Mercer County. [More]
Subscriber and paid stories on this date
CELINA - The Mercer County Sheriff's office in a social media post on Wednesday announced deputies will not make random traffic stops to determine if residents are breaking the curfew recently imposed by the governor.
COLDWATER - Inpatient emergency department volume continues to rise at Mercer County Community Hospital, with daily volumes estimated to have almost tripled compared with previous months.
$133,494 will be used to buy equipment
CELINA - Mercer County commissioners this week signed off on a request to buy $133,494.50 worth of equipment to help some county employees work remotely amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
WAPAKONETA - The final ballot count for Auglaize County was certified on Wednesday after board of elections members went through a final review of absentee ballots received after Election Day and provisional ballots.
MONTEZUMA - Council members during a brief meeting on Wednesday night discussed a resident's request for village employees to remove a tree in the village right-of-way.
NEW BREMEN - The school district's updated five-year forecast shows diminishing cash balances, which will need to be addressed, school board members learned on Wednesday.
Homans coming up big for Cardinals
After New Bremen battled back to tie Marion Local at 17 with three minutes left in the Division VI regional final, the Cardinals needed a defensive stand to force overtime.
NEW BREMEN - The New Bremen volleyball season came to an end Sunday in the state championship match, but two of the Cardinals' seniors aren't done playing together yet.
All-Northwest District Football Teams
The Ohio Prep Sportswriters Association released its All-Northwest District football honors list on Wednesday evening.
New Bremen coach Chris Schmidt was named the Division VII Coach of the Year for guiding the Cardinals to the state championship game.

In 47 years as a varsity football program, New Bremen had never won so much as regional championship.
The 2020 team roared past that benchmark tw
After a three-season hiatus. Coldwater is back in a state football championship game.
The 11-0 Cavaliers take on 11-0 New Middletown Springfield on Sunday at 5 p.m. at Fortress Obetz in the Division VI state championship game.
Computer Points In Review
  Three for three.
For last week's state semifinals we were down to two local teams (Coldwater and New Bremen) as well as one non-local WBL school (Van Wert). For this week's state championships, the same three teams are still alive.
It's been 20 years since Van Wert has played in a state football championship game, but the Cougars are going to get their chance on Sunday at noon when they play in the Division IV title game at Fortress Obetz against Mentor Lake Catholic.
  NOTE: Due to the recent order for a 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. curfew, the times for this weekend's state football championship games have been changed.
Division VII
New Bremen (9-2) vs. Warren JFK (9-2), 1:15 p.m.
2020 Division IV Volleyball State Runner-up
Season Results:
(25-4, 7-2 MAC)
Russia  W  3-0
Celina  W  3-0
Columbus Grove  W  3-0
Wapakoneta  W  3-0
Minster  W  3-0
Jackson Center  W