Discussions begin about possibly sharing health officer
WEST BRANCH — District Health Department No. 2 department heads and Kathleen Vichunas, chairwoman of the board of health, discussed a potential associate contract with another health department health officer recently.
Vichunas said she and DHD 2 department heads spoke over the phone with John Bruning, health officer for District Health Department No. 4, Aug. 30 to see if he would be interested in possibly handling the health officer duties for DHD 2 as well.
According to Vichunas, Bruning requested a copy of the health department’s last audit and budget.
“He said he wasn’t going to say yes, and he wasn’t going to say no until he saw those documents,” she said.
She added the DHD 4 Board of Health next meets Sept. 17, and the DHD 2 board meets Sept. 24, and the issue would likely be discussed by both boards.
Bruning, who is based in Alpena County for DHD 4, said the DHD 2 Board of Health has reached out to him, but nothing has been decided yet.
“There’s a lot of variables involved,” he said.
“It depends on the types of services, and the structure of the department,” Bruning added.
He said the service area and geographic area of DHD 2 would also come into play. Bruning added no follow-up discussions or meetings have been scheduled at this time.
Bruning has been health officer at DHD 4, which covers Montmorency, Presque Isle, Cheboygan and Alpena counties, for six years.
The Board of Health for DHD 2, which represents Ogemaw, Oscoda, Alcona and Iosco counties, was planning on hiring a new health officer to replace current officer Lynette Benjamin, whom the state instructed the board to replace by November. The Michigan Public Health Administration informed the board that Benjamin, appointed in 2009, was not qualified for the position.
“The initial appointment, made in June 2009, stipulated the approval was provisional and conditional on Ms. Benjamin enrolling and finishing a Master of Public Health degree by June of 2012,” a letter from Jean Chabut, deputy director of the Public Health Administration, said. “No progress has been made to date on the degree requirement.”
Several candidates were interviewed to replace Benjamin, but at the Aug. 21 Board of Health meeting the option of pursuing an associate contract with DHD 4 for health officer services was raised by Board of Health member Michael Hunt. A motion to pursue an agreement passed 5-3.