Letter to the Editor

Time for change

Friday, March 29, 2013

Dear Editor,

After attending the hearing March 25 and listening to the testimony given by the folks attending, I have to make a few comments.

I am convinced the people are served well by Red Willow Health Department. I am also convinced that those attending were mostly low income elderly.

In no way am I trying to imply that those using this service are not entitled to it. There are probably folks in the county that need help and are too proud to ask for it.

I am also convinced that most of them attending had received a call or were contacted by a friend or employee's friend to attend this hearing. This was advertised and was perfectly legal.

The point I am trying to make is that the showing of hands to continue the present Health Department was nearly 100 percent. The commissioners should surely realize that the folks in attendance were all "handpicked" to be there.

Comments were made about not continuing to get personal attention provided now if they went to SWNPHD. I don't blame anyone for being concerned about individual attention.

I am not sure the Red Willow County residents are aware of the same services that are available at 404 W. Tenth Street. This place is very easy to find and has plenty of parking.

The following figures are a list of revenues and expenditures of SWNPHD that serves eight counties without local tax revenue from any county.





other income$6,3641%

WNV, Environmental,

Chronic Disease
Disease Tracking


Prevention (Cancer, Disease, Respite)$252,68746%

Promotion (Outreach, PHN

Equipment & Improvements$30,94306%


Eldon Moore,

Bartley, Nebraska

Dear Editor,

I attended the public hearing on March 25 regarding the potential closure of Red Willow County Health Department. The meeting was not about Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department (SWNPHD). SWNPHD asked to present information about their services to Red Willow county commissioners on March 5. My perception, based on the comments from the public hearing is that several individuals were neither aware nor informed of the services provided by Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department. The following are excerpts from the presentation to the RW commissioners on March 5, 2013:

SWNPHD was established May 14, 2002 utilizing an inter-local agreement between Chase, Dundy, Frontier, Furnas, Hayes, Hitchcock, Perkins, and Red Willow counties. In all, there were eighteen Nebraska health districts formed as a result of the tobacco settlement funds (LB692). This provided all 93 counties with public health services for the first time in Nebraska history.

Our first office was located in Trenton in the Hitchcock County courthouse with a director and a secretary as staff. The department moved to an eight office suite at the Masonic Temple in May 2005. Personnel grew with the hiring of an Emergency Response Coordinator, a full time Public Health Nurse, and Volunteer Coordinator. Within five years the office added 2 Health Educators and a Respite Coordinator. In March 2010, the department moved to its present location at 404 West 10th Street in McCook. No loans or tax dollars were used to purchase and remodel the building.

Staffing today consists of the Director, Assistant Director/Health Educator, Emergency Response Coordinator, one full time and one part time Registered Nurse, Respite Coordinator/Health Educator, an Office Manager, part time Program Assistant, Clerical Assistant and Environmental Services. Change and growth are evident with the numerous programs and challenges presented by our state, counties and communities.

The mission of Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department, in partnership with other entities, is to promote a healthy and secure quality of life for our communities.

Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department has been highly successful in working with partners to provide services or educational programs. We have excelled in numerous partnerships with the Nebraska Department of Health & Human Services, Red Willow County Health Department, hospitals, Emergency Managers, EMS and fire, schools, Home Health, nursing homes, mental health, senior centers, churches, economic development and area communities.

Myra Stoney has served as Director of Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department since 2004 under the direction of our board. Our 18-member board includes a county commissioner and community-minded individual from each county, a dentist and a physician. Their support and leadership has greatly influenced our development.

The history of our board includes sharing the dentist and physician positions among several counties. Many of these health care providers serve multiple counties.

SWNPHD follows the 10 essential services of public health developed by the Center for Disease Control.

SWNPHD and RWCH have a 10-year history of working together to best serve our population. The two health departments are similar yet different. SWNPHD funding comes from Tobacco Settlement funds, contracts, grants, fees and donations. Per Dave Palm, with the Office of Public Health at the State of Nebraska Health and Human Services, the tobacco settlement money will be around for a long time, to perpetuity.

At the request of Margie Swanda, former Director of Red Willow County Health, Southwest began providing influenza vaccinations to low income persons in 2006. SWNPHD then took influenza to businesses and schools in an effort to meet Healthy People 2010 goals of vaccinating 70 percent of all non-institutionalized adults.

Clinical services for Southwest have evolved and matured since 2006. Immunizations provided by SWNPHD include Hepatitis A and B, Tetanus Diphtheria Pertussis, Polio, Influenza, HPV, Mumps Measles Rubella, Meningitis, Pneumonia, Tetanus, Varicella (Chicken Pox), and Shingles. Other immunizations are available upon request.

Free immunizations are available for those who qualify for both adults and children. Additionally we bill insurance for Medicare B, Railroad Medicare and Blue Cross Blue Shield. SWNPHD has applied to several other insurance companies for billing privileges.

In January 2012, SWNPHD partnered with Hayes Center Schools, Medicine Valley Schools and Community Hospital to provide bi-monthly immunization clinics in Hayes Center and Curtis. This service was expanded to Trenton in October 2012. A new partnership was formed with Tri-Valley Health Systems in November 2012 for the Cambridge immunization clinic.

During the H1N1 event in 2009, SWNPHD administered 2200 flu shots. Currently, SWNPHD is working with several schools to do child immunizations.

Other Services provided by SWNPHD include:

Blood pressure Clinics, Hemoccult Screenings, TB testing, Health Promotion and Education, School Based Health Screenings, Environmental Complaint follow-up, West Nile Virus activities, Clean Indoor Air follow-up, Disease Surveillance, Drug Take Back events, Emergency Preparedness, Meth Lab Cleanup, Nebraska Kids Fitness and Nutrition Day, Pharmaceutical Assistance, PHONE Nurse, Pool Cool, Radon -- CRM testing and education, Respite, Tobacco Cessation, TOUCAN -- Teaching Our Youth Choices about Activities and Nutrition and Walk to Health.

Three new programs Childcare Provider Health Screenings, Preventive Laboratory Screening, Lead Poisoning Screening are in process for SWNPHD and will be up and running in the near future.

SWNPHD works diligently to address the three functions of public health: Prevent Promote and Protect. We do this by working closely with our public health partners. Red Willow and Southwest provide similar services. Comparing one to the other is like comparing an apple to an orange. SWNPHD cares about Southwest Nebraskan's, their families, friends, and communities. We are all in this together.

Charles Vette

Chairman of the Board

Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department

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