By Alex Haglund
Along with County Coroner Mark Styninger and County Clerk Nancy Heseman, Washington County Health Department Administrator Sharon Frederking gave a report for the past year at the January County Board meeting held on Tuesday January 11.
In short, it’s been another busy year for the health department, a county agency that covers a number of different areas of activities.
In the last year, the health department:
• Performed 111 inspections of locations where food is served, which Frederking told the board were, “high, medium and low risk. This doesn’t mean how safe or unsafe they were, but the number of people that they served.” In Frederking’s example, a full-time restaurant would be high risk, while a convenience store or tavern that only served a few items of food or didn’t prepare the food they served on-site would be lower risk.
• Performed 81 total surveys of establishments or facilities.
• The department handled eight food-related complaints for the year. This was up from two last year.
• For water, the department conducted 11 well inspections and issued 11 well permits.
• The department issued 42 private sewage permits (for septic systems and the like), “We had only done 25 in all of last year,” said Frederking. “So there has either been some more construction of new homes or replacing of old systems.”
• The county is down to one tanning facility (which is inspected by the department). This is down from five, then three facilities in past years.
• There were nine nuisance complaints the health department dealt with. “Most of those relate to trash being dumped on somebody’s property, or a neighbor’s complaint about another neighbor’s property or something like that.”
• There are now no body art facilities in the county, which Frederking said was good for the health department, “for us to not have to inspect.”
• There have been two classes as part of the vector control program for those that distribute larvicide in the communities. Related to this is the next item…
• The health department tests batches of mosquitos in the county for the presence of West Nile Virus. None of the 79 batches tested were positive this year. “That’s a good thing,” Frederking told the board, “except if you have some positive batches, you get a little more state funding to deal with it.”
• The department held two electronics recycling events, in partnership with the county board’s solid waste committee. “We plan to have more this year,” Frederking said. “The biggest issue with that was when they decided that they were just going to stop taking the TVs. So that’s been a problem for us to continue to work on. We’re still looking for agencies to get that resolved.”
• For family case management, which Frederking stated “works hand-in-hand with our WIC (Women Infant and Children) program,” had a case load of 98, down very slightly from 99 last year. “We do home visits to the pregnant moms in that program and we did 48 of those this year.”
• The department’s current WIC caseload is 239. Last year was 260, “so we’re down a little bit on that,” stated Frederking. “The state really wants us to be up to around 300. So they want us to recruit more people into the WIC program, but that’s sort of good that we don’t have a lot of people that are dependent on that.”
Infectious Disease Control
• The department’s tuberculosis program did 139 TB skin tests this year. There were 140 last year. “Fortunately, we haven’t had any active or inactive cases to follow up on,” Frederking said.
• The department tracked salmonella in “few cases throughout the year.” There were also…
• Two cases of pertussis (whooping cough).
• Chlamydia is, “always the leader,” said Frederking. There were 26 cases this year, up from 16 last year.
• “We’re seeing some more cases of hepatitis B,” Frederking said, saying that there was more blood testing being done, with many people being carriers but without showing symptoms.
• The department carried out 580 school immunizations for children, up from 480 last year.
• There were 1,086 adult immunizations given out by the health department this year, up from 912 last year.
• Of the adult immunizations listed above, 1,030 were flu vaccines. This was up from last year when only 830 were given. “That’s a good thing, that more people are getting them,” Frederking said, “we’re pleased to give those.”
• The health department also performs blood tests and labs for people, with 775 given last year. The majority of those are given in February, Frederking said, when the health department offers their annual blood work special. This a complete metabolic panel (CMP), lipid panel, complete blood chemistry (CBC)/platelet/AutoDiff, thyroid profile and TSH for $35, plus PSA screenings for men for an additional $35. The department is currently holding the clinics for running these tests, which are held on Monday mornings through February. The next clinic is scheduled for Monday, February 8, from 7 to 9:30 a.m.
• The health department carried out 278 vision screenings, up from 184 in the previous year.
• Performed 305 hearing screenings, up from 194 last year.
• The health department did 24 jail visits and saw 63 inmates.
After finishing her report, Frederking gave a quick mention of the effect of the state’s budget on local health departments.
“Like all the other state health departments, we have not received any money from state grants since July,” Frederking said. She stated that they had received some money for the WIC program, and for the disaster preparedness program, due to the fact that both of these were federally sponsored, at least in part.
In Washington County, Frederking stated that the health department was fortunate to have a good reserve, “so we are able to continue to function. Many health departments are not – they have had to lay off staff, cut back hours, work three days a week instead of five, they are in really bad shape.”
“Unfortunately, we haven’t been getting any positive feedback that our budget is being resolved,” Frederking continued. “We’re doing ok, but I think many departments will have to close their doors if they don’t start getting money soon.”
“Keep contacting our legislators to get something resolved with our governor,” Frederking implored board members.