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DHD4 to add more employees to aid with workload

News Photo by Crystal Nelson District Health Department No. 4 Health Officer Denise Bryan talks to county commissioners on the health board Tuesday at St. John Lutheran Church off of County Road 441 in Rogers City.

ALPENA — The District Health Department No. 4 Health Board on Tuesday agreed to hire more temporary employees to help offset the workload Health Department employees are experiencing because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Health Officer Denise Bryan told the board the Health Department received $432,000 from the state, which can be used on COVID-19-related expenses through Sept. 30.

Bryan recommended the funding be used to retain its temporary contact tracers and hire up to three part-time clerical employees, a North emergency management supervisor and an information technology supervisor, also on a temporary basis.

Bryan said additional temporary, part-time clerical employees would be able to help schedule appointments for the vaccination clinic. The Health Department would pay the temporary clerical employees $12 per hour, but no benefits.

Although Health Department employees have become very efficient administering the vaccines, Bryan said it still takes time — sometimes up to 10 minutes — to schedule an appointment for the vaccine clinic and answer any questions a person may have.

Bryan said Health Department officials find out on Fridays the number of vaccines they will receive for the following week. She said that means clerical employees on Mondays begin scheduling appointments for that week’s vaccination clinics. Staff often work until 8 p.m. on Mondays scheduling clinics, she said.

“We are still challenged with the demand — over 10,000 people in our pre registration — waiting for vaccine to arrive,” she said. “If we knew that we were going to get the vaccine every week, I would set up those appointments and we would start calling and scheduling them out. So instead of being in limbo, they would actually know that their appointment is two, three, four weeks out.”

Bryan said state officials have struggled with getting vaccine and allocating it out to the local health departments. She said health departments can no longer request the number of vaccines and state officials are now allocating it out.

Bryan said the Health Department has received as few as 500 vaccines and as many as 1,400 vaccines from the state. She said they were also told to expect to receive about 900 vaccines a week, but were then shipped 700 vaccines.

State officials are now using a formula which includes both population and a social vulnerability index, Bryan said. The social vulnerability index takes into account a community’s poverty level, age and race.

Bryan said there’s a lot of traveling between the four counties the Health Department serves, and there is a need for an emergency management supervisor in the northern portion of the Health Department, including Presque Isle and Cheboygan counties. The position would report to the Health Department’s emergency preparedness coordinator.

The Health Department also needs help in the information technology department, and would hire an information technology supervisor to help the Health Department’s IT director.

Both positions are temporary full-time positions and would cost the Health Department a total of $82,000 in wages and fringe benefits for six months.

Bryan said the Health Department is able to add the two supervisory positions and that a substantial amount of the state funding would still remain.

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