CHARLESTON — Native well being departments and Senate Democratic leaders are involved a invoice meant to supply oversight to native well being departments would intrude with public well being and erode morale of overworked well being officers.
Senate Invoice 12 is up for passage at the moment within the state Senate. It was moved to 3rd studying with the suitable to amend Monday.
SB 12 would give county commissioners and municipal governments a non-voting seat on county and metropolis boards of well being. It additionally provides county and metropolis governments the authority to approve or reject any rule or a part of a rule created by an area board of well being besides situations of well being emergencies. In these situations, county and metropolis governments would have 30 days to approve these emergency guidelines as soon as issued.
The invoice additionally places all native well being departments below the authority of the state well being officer within the occasion of a declared statewide well being emergency. The invoice applies to particular person county and metropolis well being departments, in addition to joint well being departments between a couple of county or county and metropolis joint well being departments.
SB 12 has raised the priority of county and metropolis well being officers. In an announcement Monday, the Affiliation of Native Well being Departments believes the invoice hinders the power of well being officers to answer the wants of their communities. The affiliation believes that conserving county and metropolis officers as voting members of well being boards already gives a voice of taxpayers in well being division selections.
“Our native well being board members who’re county commissioners must be allowed to proceed to serve on our boards and never be made ex-officio members with out votes,” stated affiliation spokesman Tom Susman. “Our county commissioners are beneficial conduits for cooperation amongst native entities, they usually have performed a key position in our potential to answer the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Members of the Senate Democratic Caucus held a press convention after Monday’s ground session to speak about their issues about SB 12. State Sen. Ron Stollings, D-Boone, is a doctor in Madison. He stated members of county and metropolis boards of well being are appointed by native officers and might already be eliminated, however public well being selections should be free from political influences.
“The few phrases this invoice provides to state code belies the potential impact on the well being of all,” Stollings stated. “County commissions don’t need this to cross, the boards of well being don’t need this to cross and public well being advocate individuals don’t need this to cross … that is an anti-public well being invoice.”
Opponents stated the invoice is supposed to be an end-run round boards of well being and prohibitions in opposition to indoor smoking. The American Most cancers Society Most cancers Motion Community got here out in opposition to the invoice final week, and the Affiliation of Native Well being Departments additionally opposes rolling again indoor smoking prohibitions.
“Second-hand smoke is a critical well being danger for the residents of our state, which already has important well being hurdles,” Susman stated. “The native well being boards and departments are in the midst of defending the residents of the state from the coronavirus with testing and vaccine administration and different providers. They shouldn’t be required to cease the native COVID-19 response to facilitate a course of designed to pressure a rollback of the native clear indoor air ordinances.”
An modification from state Sen. Robert Karnes, R-Randolph, would take out language within the invoice grandfathering earlier well being division guidelines, which might open up all previous well being division guidelines for county and metropolis governments to amend or take away.
“They tried to scrub it up and make it look higher, however it’s not higher. It’s nonetheless dangerous,” Stollings stated. “(The Karnes) modification … would make it quite a bit worse.”
“The Karnes modification, if adopted, is an try and roll again the smoking ordinances in every of the counties, and whether it is profitable, West Virginia will return to the times of smoking within the office, eating places and different places,” Susman stated.
Steven Allen Adams may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.