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GALENA–Continuing a discussion that began at an earlier Jo Daviess County Board of Health meeting, the board spent time at its Wednesday, June 9 meeting talking about reimbursing Midwest Medical Center, Medical Associates and Freeport Health Network for assistance in the COVID-19 vaccination clinics held earlier this year.
The reimbursement would be paid through a grant that was used by some health departments to hire additional employees to assist with clinics.
“I would like to see something provided to them,” said Peg Dittmar, board of health chair.
County board chair and board of health member Don Hill was not in favor of a reimbursement.
“I don’t like the reimbursement word in there,” said Hill. “I think we should give them a token thank you, such as a gift card, meal voucher or whatever. I don’t think reimbursement for time served is what this is about. People volunteered and I think a token of our gratitude for their help is more of what we should be putting out there than a reimbursement.”
The grant would need to be amended for either a reimbursement or a token.
“The grant is meant for COVID-19 expenses,” said board member Merri Berlage.
Board member Hesper Nowatzki said staff members at those facilities were reallocated to assist with the clinics.
Tracy Bauer, Midwest Medical Center CEO and board of health member, provided the board with documentation on the number of hours and the salary and benefits of staff who volunteered.
Bauer said Midwest Medical Center used 876.5 hours during the clinics, which totals $36,051.
“That would be a lot of Starbucks gift cards,” said Nowatzki.
“My thought process is that the grant is really used for this type of grant for COVID-19,” said Bauer. “The health department could have hired people to do all of this, instead of having Midwest Medical Center and Medical Associates providing staff.”
Bauer noted she wasn’t suggesting a dollar figure for reimbursement but was just providing the information that was requested when this topic was previously discussed.
“I know that you also volunteered to do that,” said Berlage. “Looking back on it, that probably wasn’t the proper way to do that. We probably should have allocated beforehand instead of talking about it at this point.”
Bauer didn’t have an opinion on the matter and noted that Midwest Medical Center felt that the clinics were important to the community and they were willing to serve and assist the public.
“It is almost kind of innumerable to calculate out anything,“ said Tara Redfearn, clinical manager at Medical Associates and board of health member. “Medical staff among Midwest and Medical Associates included time and administration organizing things and promoting. I don’t think you can put a number of hours on it. There was a lot that went into it.”
The board agreed to provide the information to administrator Sandra Schleicher, who is on maternity leave, and have her review the grant and provide a recommendation when she returns next month.
Samantha Rojemann, emergency response and outreach coordinator, informed the board that, as of the meeting date, there have been no new COVID cases in the county since June 1.
Rojemann also reported that the health department has given 8,668 vaccines to 4,898 people in collaboration with the clinics and including the National Guard clinic at River Ridge.
As of June 9, 12,504 people in Jo Daviess County were fully vaccinated.
“We are doing pretty good,” said Rojemann. “Especially if you compare our numbers to neighboring counties.”
In Jo Daviess County, 71.5 percent of residents over 18 are vaccinated and 66. 7 percent of residents over 12. As of June 9, 98.9 percent of individuals over 65 are vaccinated.
Rojemann also told the board there will be a vaccination clinic at the jail in coming weeks.
The health department’s inventory includes 45 Johnson & Johnson vaccines, which will be used for the clinic as they will be expiring soon.
“We do have 220 Moderna vaccines, but those are in the freezer and are good until the end of October,” said Rojemann. “Lori (Stangl) is planning on doing clinics here as needed for Moderna.”
Rojemann also noted local pharmacies have played an important role in the recent vaccinations. According to Rojemann, Hartig Drug in Galena is vaccinating about 12 people per day, while Hartig in Stockton vaccinates about six per day. Walmart is vaccinating about 40 per week.
“Are we thinking about doing something for the Hispanic population? Maybe doing a clinic just for them?” asked Bauer. “Maybe providing an interpreter or some education?”
Rojemann said flyers have been passed out around the community to provide information and translation services are offered if needed.
“I don’t mean to sound terrible, but is this just because there is a language barrier that we need a special clinic for them?” asked Berlage.
Bauer said that was the main purpose for having this type of clinic.
“It would provide additional education because that is some feedback that I have heard locally,” said Bauer. “There was some hesitancy. I think that is the role that the health department could play. They might feel more comfortable if there is a language translator here that they can answer their questions.”