Health department asking state for advice on health officer hiring
Vichunas named Board of Health chairwoman
WEST BRANCH — District Health Department No. 2 is asking for advice from the Michigan Department of Public Health regarding how it can afford to hire a new health officer.
Board of Health Chairwoman and Alcona County Commissioner Kathleen Vichunas said she sent an email to Michigan Department of Community Health Local Health Services Director Mark Miller asking him for advice on the hiring of a new health officer, which she doesn’t feel the department can afford to pay.
“We’re on the hook to basically hire a health officer,” Vichunas told the board at its Jan. 28 meeting. “Based on what we’ve heard about the winter months being a bad time with revenue, I don’t know if we would be fiscally responsible if we went to the expense of putting these notices in multiple newspapers. We’d have the cost of the job postings, which could be excessive considering the cost of newspaper ads.”
In addition, she said, the department could incur costs associated with interviewing the candidates.
“Can we, in all honesty, afford to pay a full-time health officer at this time this kind of money?” Vichunas asked.
She said, based on past postings, she had come up with a posting for the health officer position. She said, in the past, the department had offered a salary of $70,000 to $86,600 depending on experience.
Currently the department is without a full-time health officer, after former Health Officer Lynette Benjamin left the department in November after the state said she could no longer serve in her position without earning her master’s degree.
DHD No. 2 Public Health Director Debra Baumann is currently serving as the acting health officer.
Vichunas said she asked Miller how the board could hamper the health department more by saying it had to pay for a full-time health officer.
“We must have had problems last year when we were paying (Benjamin) the $70,000,” she said. “(Baumann) has only asked us for $1,000 a month, which in my opinion is way too cheap. We are also not paying an increase in benefits, whereas if we hire someone there’s going to be a whole package of benefits. How are we going to come up with that kind of money?”
Vichunas said she asked Miller if there was a solution that would allow the department to have more time to possibly increase its revenues.
“They have to be understanding,” she said.
She said she had not yet heard back from Miller, but she would notify the board when she received an answer from him.
In other business, Vichunas will remain chairwoman of the board, after her peers voted unanimously to have her continue in that position at the board’s Jan. 28 meeting.
The board included a number of new members after some board members were ousted in their respective counties in the November election.
Ogemaw County Commissioner Brenda Simmons was appointed vice chairwoman with a unanimous vote.
The board also voted unanimously to allow video conferencing for its meetings whenever possible, except when board members would need to meet in person due to a closed session or for interviews.
Also part of that motion, the board will meet in person once each quarter, in one of the health department’s four counties, to allow the board members to see each other face-to-face and to allow people in each county to address the board face-to-face during public comment.
Video conferencing has been used occasionally for meetings in the past as a way to save money on travel and to be more convenient for board members, who often have to travel long distances to attend meetings due to the size of the health department district.
District Health Department No. 2 includes the counties of Ogemaw, Oscoda, Alcona and Iosco counties.