Editor’s note: This is Part III of Greene County Public Health’s column regarding public health in the 1970s.
On Jan. 5, 1974, the board approved the implementation of the WIC program which followed the opening of prenatal and well-child clinics and Bellbrook became a city. Through the clinics, mothers without insurance could deliver at the local hospital for a minimal fee. Board members expressed concern about the cost and rising number of individuals who reported being unable to pay their bills. WIC caseloads in 1976 were 400. A bulk postage permit was obtained. On Sept. 22, 1977, the Fairborn clinic opened at 600 Pierce St.
Following the Xenia tornado of April 3, 1974, the role of the health district was to support recovery in the community. Environmental services was impacted because the facility on Church Street was damaged by the tornado. Clerks and nurses supported Greene Memorial Hospital operations and patient care. Resident contact was made door to door, offering tetanus, and treating minor injuries; and employees were placed on 12-hour shifts. Nursing home residents were moved to an undamaged facility. Support to Central State University was also provided in the form of food, water, medical supplies, and toilet facilities. Mutual aid was received from Montgomery and Clark counties.
Post-tornado, the health district started surveillance and control functions in environmental health. Concerns were for environmental hazards, nuisances, rodents, mosquitoes, and sewers. Intensified efforts were made in dental, medical, social, and psychological services. The services were funded by the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare through the Ohio Department of Health. In all, there were 34 dead, 19 female, and 15 males ranging from 1 month to 82 years old.
Greene County Public Health has long been known as being progressive and innovative in all aspects of public health programs, services and technology. In addition to the dictation machines, two-way radios were purchased for environmental health. Use of the term “division” was adopted to reflect amounts of time, activity, and budget going to particular areas.
Greene County prosecuting attorney wrote that the prosecutor would defend employees named in a lawsuit regarding a drilled well. The openings for wells were left open for inspection. Sanitarians inspected the type of pipe and connection to a house. Well drillers indicated by survey responses that they were not in favor of deleting the inspection of the connection to the house. Members of the community voiced concerns that there was preferential treatment to residents receiving variances in environmental health.
In 1976, a concern about anthrax was reported to the Board of Health by Health Commissioner Shubick. Imported skeins of yarn were contaminated and one death was reported in California. A local store in Yellow Springs had purchased the yarn and the owner of the store worked to find individuals who had purchased the yarn from the store. The store owner received a letter of commendation from the board. Anthrax is an infectious disease caused by a bacterium called bacillus anthracis. Infection in humans involves the skin, gastrointestinal tract, or lungs. Anthrax commonly affects hoofed animals such as sheep, cattle, and goats. Humans coming into contact with infected animals can get sick with anthrax.
In October 1976 in response to fear of swine flu, vaccine became available to those over 60 or individuals age 18 to 60 with serious medical conditions. A vaccine for children was available from private physicians. A total of 18,555 shots were administered.
In the late 1970s prior to Shubick’s departure, there was much unrest among the employees as they alleged unfair personnel practices and took concerns to the media with no prior discussion with health district leadership. Employee matters needed to be discussed with the health commissioner before going to the Board of Health or reporting to the newspaper. Employees involved the Ohio Civil Service Employees Association (OSCEA) to handle grievances. Personnel conflict existed over authority, up to date job descriptions, wearing lab coats, and responsibility and liability. Employees were contacting the board president directly. Other issues included employees opening mail marked “personal” and alleged harassment. There was conflict between the medical and clerical employees. Complaints included poor intra-departmental communication, failure to recognize lines of authority, lack of response to requests for professional guidance, and failure to obtain definitive departmental operating policies. The board refined the audience participation policy and formed committees to handle the issues being raised.
The health district entered into an after-care agreement with the hospital to provide follow up for patients from Greene Hall. Payment for services became a barrier to continuing the program. The Xenia City School District was requesting dental services be provided by the health district. W.P. McCullough accepted the position of health commissioner in July 1979.
In July, we’ll visit public health events and activities from the 1980s. Please remember during this difficult time of the COVID-19 pandemic, to follow our website at www.gcph.info, along with our social media platforms including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn for the most accurate and up to date information. You can also visit www.coronavirus.ohio.gov, call 1-833-4-ASK-ODH or Greene County’s COVID-19 Hotline at 937-374-5626.
Melissa Howell is the health commissioner for Greene County Public Health. Laurie Fox, public information officer for Greene County Public Health, contributed to this column.