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Personnel Changes Discussed at Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health

WHEELING – Personnel changes and staffing issues were addressed Tuesday at the Wheeling-Ohio County Board of Health meeting.

Health department administrator Howard Gamble said nursing director Elizabeth Fowler and nurse Kelly Fitzpatrick have joined the staff following the retirement of Becky Beckett and Maggie Sall.

A threat preparedness director has to be recruited to replace Wayland Harris, who has joined the county’s new ambulance service. An opening exists for a sanitarian, also known as a health inspector.

Positions for sanitarians “are absolutely difficult to fill” because of competition for qualified personnel, Gamble said. Environmental health — the area in which sanitarians work — constitutes “the largest program in public health across the state,” he added.

In other matters, Dr. William Mercer, county health officer, said the public is still being encouraged to get an influenza shot as flu season continues.

Ohio County has fewer than five cases of hepatitis A as of Jan. 10, but 23 deaths have been reported statewide, Gamble said. The department, in cooperation with the Wheeling Housing Authority, plans to hold hepatitis A immunization clinics in February at high-rise apartment buildings.

Gamble said he has received several calls about the new federal rule prohibiting anyone under age 21 from purchasing smoking or vaping products. The restriction is effective immediately, but not much information has been disseminated regarding enforcement. New legislative rules regarding fees for environmental health permits are to be finalized during this year’s session of the West Virginia Legislature. Gamble said the rules include a new category for industrial campgrounds; a number of the campgrounds exist in Ohio County for oil and gas workers.

Labor camp will be placed under the jurisdiction of county health departments, he said. These camps exist at oil and gas rigs in the Northern Panhandle and on farms in the Eastern Panhandle.

The state health department has begun accepting applications from growers, processors, dispensers and laboratories for the medical cannabis program, but an approval process has yet to be developed, Gamble said.

Board member Dr. Mathew Wood, who is a licensed hemp grower, said the state’s medical cannabis program is understaffed. “I imagine this will move at a glacial pace,” he said.

Board chair Dr. John Holloway and board members Laura Wakim Chapman, Elisabeth Slater, Thomas Tuttle and Wood attended Tuesday’s meeting. Member Chad Thalman was absent.

The Board of Health’s next meeting is set for noon March 10 at the City-County Building, 1500 Chapline St.

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