Citizens For A Better Norwood

Monday, October 13, 2008

Guest blog: The Question of the Norwood Health Dept.

By Steve Thornbury
Norwood City Council, Ward 2
October 12, 2008

Part 1.
The chronology of events, from my perspective, relating to the current question regarding the Norwood Health Department:

In May of this year, Health Commissioner Donna Laake submitted her resignation to the Mayor of Norwood and the Norwood Board of Health. In response, the Norwood Board of Health immediately began conducting a search for a replacement.

On July 17, Norwood Safety/Service Director Joseph Geers sent a letter to Hamilton County Public Health (HCPH) asking for an estimate of what HCPH would charge to provide certain services currently being provided by our own Norwood Health Department. At the time, neither Norwood City Council nor the Norwood Board of Health was either consulted or informed of this request for an estimate.

On July 30, the HCPH director Timothy Ingram sent a letter in response with an initial estimate.

On August 13, the Safety/Service Director sent a letter to Norwood City Council to advise Council that “I have been in discussion with the Hamilton County Health District regarding their services.” This is the first time Council has been made aware of the Administration’s interest in contracting with HCPH.

On August 18th an article in the Cincinnati Enquirer stated that “the Norwood Health Commission has suspended its search for a replacement for Laake.... There's been no decision about whether an interim health commissioner will be appointed.” Upon reading this I sent an email to Gary Arthur, President pro-tem of the Norwood Board of Health asking for confirmation of the report that the search for a new Health Commissioner had indeed been suspended. To that point, Council had not been informed of such a move. That same day Mr. Arthur responded via email:

“The search for the new Health Commissioner HAS NOT been suspended, unless it was done without my knowledge. My suggestion to the Health Commission when I left for vacation was to move forward as planned. I asked Mayor Williams to schedule the next round of interviews at his earliest convenience so we could have a candidate to present to council by the end of August. I was contacted by the Enquirer and played phone tag and never had the opportunity to give them any information regarding either the search or outsourcing any of the services we provide for our citizens. The Health Commission is NOT considering any option other than to continue the Health Department with a new Commissioner. We believe it would not be in the best interest of Norwood to contract any services with Hamilton County, Cincinnati or any other Health Department. My understanding is Norwood City Council is reviewing these options.

I would suggest that we move forward with the selection process. If Dr. Perrino is in agreement, I believe we can work with him as an interim director until we can agree on a new Commissioner. I am sure that if we all work together in a timely manner, we can bring this to an agreeable conclusion.”

Despite Mr. Arthur’s statement “Norwood City Council is reviewing these options,” there had been no action on Council to that point in response to the letter from the Safety/Service Director.

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