TEXAS: Our view: Hepatitis A threat underscores risk of closing city health
Posted: September 27th, 2011 - 11:07am
Source: Lubbock Online
If nothing else, last week’s hepatitis A scare reminds us someone needs to keep track of potential health issues in the city and marshal resources to combat those threats.
It also comes at an interesting time, considering current discussions about the future of the city's Health Department.
The $400,000 the city could save this year and the $835,000 that might be saved next year is a compelling argument in favor of shuttering the city’s Health Department and outsourcing its immunization and sexually transmitted disease testing duties to local groups and handing surveillance responsibility to the state.
City officials have told us — despite what critics say — their plans have always been to save money while maintaining services, even if those services are handled by different people.
Those critics — who've come out en masse (and it's refreshing to see people involved in their government) — believe outsourcing the department's tasks is a dangerous plan.
While there are pros and cons to local groups handling the immunizations and STD testing, our biggest concern is making sure local surveillance is not just handled — but done with no room for error.
Surveillance in this context is not the stuff of spies and police but rather a go-to person or persons who are contacted in the event of public health emergencies. Currently, that person is Bridgette Faulkenberry, health department director. It was Faulkenberry who put out the notice of the potential hepatitis A threat and made arrangements for vaccine for those who may have been exposed.
Had the City Council gone ahead with the Health Department shutdown at the end of August, it might not have turned out so well. Perhaps the state could have and would have met the challenge.
That’s not to say a better approach to meeting the public health needs is impossible. Maybe there's even a better solution out there.
We have faith in the Board of Health subcommittee charged with finding an acceptable means to balance those needs. Dr. Donald May, who heads the subcommittee, said a solution can be found.