MARIETTA - The "Help Wanted" sign went up at the Washington County Health Department Tuesday as health board members approved advertisements for a part-time health commissioner, full-time health administrator and full-time director of nursing.
The move comes on the heels of last month's board decision not to renew former full-time health commissioner Kathleen Meckstroth's contract due to dwindling financial resources. Her contract expired Dec. 31.
"We're just doing the best we can," board president Richard Daniell said at the end of Tuesday's extended board of health meeting.
On Jan. 3, Martin Tremmel, deputy director of the Ohio Department of Health, held a conference call with the Washington County health board members to discuss issues facing the local health department.
"They pretty much read us the riot act, for lack of a better description," Daniell said Tuesday. "And then they sent us a one page letter telling us what was expected. The letter indicated we are out of compliance and said what we need to do to become compliant."
Tremmel's letter included recommendations that the board appoint an interim part-time health commissioner during Tuesday's meeting, then appoint and hire a full-time commissioner by July 1 of this year.
He also suggested developing a business operations plan by July 1, and approach health departments in Marietta and Belpre to "discuss shared services and merger opportunities."
In addition, Tremmel recommended the health department request a performance audit from the Ohio auditor of state.
The board was in luck as Dick Wittberg, a Washington County resident and executive director of the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department in Parkersburg, attended Tuesday's meeting and volunteered to serve as part-time interim health commissioner until another permanent commissioner could be hired.
"I want to be a resource for you, if needed," Wittberg said. "If there are things I can do to help in this situation, I certainly would like to do that."
As a citizen of Washington County and holding a doctorate in biology, Wittberg more than met the requirements for the interim health commissioner post and his offer was unanimously accepted by the health board members.
The board agreed to advertise for a permanent part-time health commissioner who would require a master's degree or better in public health and would work an estimated 10 hours a month.
The hiring of a full-time health administrator is required to coordinate delivery of health services. That position would oversee personnel, budgeting and grant compliance, among other duties.
And the full-time director of nursing position requires a nursing degree and valid registered nurse license in the state of Ohio, as well as experience in grant compliance and management.