Posted on

County moves forward in preparing for disease outbreaks

County moves forward in preparing for disease outbreaks County moves forward in preparing for disease outbreaks

While COVID-19 cases are grabbing headlines around the world, Taylor County Public Health Director Patty Krug is working to put pieces into place to finish a decade-long preparedness planning effort.

A decade ago, the international H1N1 flu pandemic revealed shortfalls in how governments around the world handled the disease that killed and estimated 284,000 worldwide. Since that time, public health agencies have been working to have plans in place for the next major threat.

At the March 5 county personnel committee meeting, Krug presented the one piece of that plan asking the county to agree to creating a closed point of dispensing (CPOD) for the county employees.

According to Krug, the county has long had plans in place for dealing with medical contagious disease emergencies and has agreements in place to have mass immunization or treatment sites opened. The challenge is these sites can easily overwhelm the limited public health staff, even with other county employees pressed into helping at them.

CPODs offer a way to reduce the pressure on the mass centers by allowing large employers such as schools, factories and the county to sign an agreement with the county to get the medication and have the company’s staff dispense it to their employees and their families. Krug said a key to having the agreements in place, is that it releases liability from the county if someone had a negative reaction to the medication.

Krug said it is important for people to understand that public health agencies have been preparing for possible pandemics for a decade and that the CPOD agreements are just one part of that preparation. She assured committee members that Wisconsin is at a “very low risk” of the COVID-19.

She put the risk in perspective noting that for influenza, the 19,496 people across the country have been hospitalized for influenza this year out of 220,000 cases. Of this there have been 150 deaths nationwide. As of last week’s meeting, Krug noted that there had only been one confirmed case in Wisconsin and 10 deaths nationwide with impacts over 13 states. She said it was important to be prepared, but not to panic.

Maintenance director

With county maintenance director Jeff Ludwig planning to retire on June 1, personnel committee members reviewed the job description that will be used for his replacement.

Committee member Scott Mildbrand questioned why the job description emphasized the need for a building or facilities management degree. He noted that with the industries and other employers in the community there may be people without a degree who would be interested in the position.

Human resources director Marie Koerner noted that further in the job description it notes that while the degree is preferred a combination of job experience and education is acceptable.

“It is my opinion that it scares people away,” Mildbrand said, of the wording.

“If they don’t want to read the complete job description, I don’t want them to work here,” committee member Lester Lewis said.

For his part Ludwig said he felt there were a number of people at schools and major factories in the area who could do his job. “My goal was always to be replaced by somebody who had more qualifi cations than me,” Ludwig said, noting the complexity of the systems that he works with in overseeing the courthouse and all the other county buildings and parks.

“You have done a really good job,” Mildbrand said noting that Ludwig should not be selling himself short.

“I think we will attract some pretty qualified applicants,” Ludwig said.

Committee members approved the job description as presented.

Drug opposition program

Approved shuffling drug opposition grant-funded positions between the human services and health departments to maintain grant eligibility. According to Krug, the health department is willing to help out through the end of the grant year in September but does not want to be the lead agency going forward in applying for years six through 10 of the federal grant program.

The Taylor County Drug Opposition Partners program director and administrative assistant positions had previously been under the Human Services Department. However, with a change in leadership and staffing in that department, there is a focus on more traditional human services priorities. Koerner said with the turnover in human services they are focusing on what they need to do rather than taking on other things.

According to Krug, the program has been a successful one that has benefited county residents through a cultural shift in attitudes toward underage drinking, tobacco and drug use. This success has been largely due to working in the schools and having “boots on the ground.”

Krug noted that unlike other federal grant programs, it is not the administration that causes people to want to not work with it, but having the staff to do the actual work.

“The financial part of it is the easy part of the grant, the hard part is the boots on the ground,” Krug said noting the presentations in the schools and in the community.

According to Krug, the coalition that received the grant has up to 10 years of eligibility and is completing year five. Her staff is in the process of preparing the grant application to submit for the remaining years.

However, she noted that unless a qualifying partner agency is found to serve as the lead agency, they may have to wait a year and use Taylor County Drug Opposition Partner local funds to pay for the program until the grant can be reinstated. She said they are still working to find an agency. One of the challenges is that under the grant rules, the organization or agency must have a history of working with the federal government and with accepting federal money. There are also requirements about how long the lead agency needed to be in place.

Krug said she would like to see the program continue. “It has done good in Taylor County,” Krug said, In other business, committee members approved increasing the hours for the county accountant position from 35 per week to 40 per week through the end of the year. The county is in the process of transitioning away from the AS400 Mainframe computer system into a server- based system and the additional hours will be needed to transfer the data into the new bookkeeping system. Finance director Larry Brandl said he expects it will take a lot of time to get it up and running with it needing to be completed by the end of the year. The $5,500 in additional cost will come out of the finance department’s budget.

“M y goal was always to be replaced by somebody who had more qualifications than me.”

—Maintenance supervisor Jeff Ludwig noting the increasing complexity of his job.