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State review highlights strengths and weaknesses at Umatilla County Public Health

The Umatilla County Commission accepted a report Wednesday from the Oregon Health Authority.
Jade McDowell

East Oregonian

Published on October 4, 2017 5:37PM

A review of Umatilla County Public Health by the state described “excellent work” in many areas but also provided a list of needed changes to nine of the 14 categories analyzed.

The Umatilla County Commission voted to accept the triennial report from the Oregon Health Authority Wednesday.

James Setzer, the county’s public health director, told the commission most of the compliance findings were “documentation issues” that had already been corrected since the review was completed in July.

“Here in the last three years in Umatilla County, as we know, we have undergone a lot of transitions and changes and turnover in positions at all levels within our department,” he said. “I would say as a result of that a number of things that we should have been doing better fell through the cracks.”

Setzer took over the department in November 2016.

There were seven findings by the state in the administrative category, including a lack of policy for quarantining outdated or damaged drugs, lack of written job description on file for some positions and a lack of separate medication log outside of records kept on patient charts. Those issues have since been corrected, according to the report.

There were no non-compliance issues found for the categories of civil rights, communicable disease, health officer, tobacco prevention and vital records.

In the area of “food, pool and lodging health and safety,” the county is required to inspect 100 percent of facilities every six months, a level that the report stated did not happen in 2016 due to “numerous staffing changes.” Staff have also not always included a follow-up to their inspection reports stating the violation was corrected, and were not asking some questions required by the inspection process.

“This seems to have been addressed by the addition of staff, who are working hard to complete all required inspections,” the report stated.

In the area of health security preparedness and response, the department was lacking records that staff had been trained in various required areas, and in the Nurse-Family Partnership not all requirements had been met for the program’s staffing and supervision. However, the report also indicated that Umatilla County’s Nurse-Family Partnership program’s 97 clients had better outcomes than state and national levels in premature births, immunization rates, subsequent pregnancy rates and workforce participation.

The report described “a few minor non-compliance issues” from past instances of giving vaccines but said they were resolved with “speed and professionalism.”

Under the headings of reproductive health and sexually transmitted diseases there were 12 findings. Staff must be provided “cultural competence training” and be trained annually on mandatory reporting, family involvement counseling and sexual coercion counseling. They must also provide counseling to minors encouraging family participation in the decision to seek services and explaining how to resist attempts to coerce them into sexual activities. Those deficiencies have since been resolved, according to the report.

By October 15 the health department must also have policies in place ensuring that an individual’s inability to pay $14 for sexually transmitted disease testing does not keep the specimen from being sent to a lab for processing.

In the section of the report detailing strengths, the Oregon Health Authority praised Umatilla County Public Health in a number of areas, including “excellent work” on tobacco prevention and education, an “excellent job of working to proactively address the county’s STD outbreaks” and positive relationships with community partners. The report ends with a list of “quality assurance recommendations” to ensure the department serves the public well.

“We take those seriously because we want to be the best health department we can be,” Setzer told the county commission Wednesday. He said overall he thought the review had been “harsh but fair” and would help the department improve.


Contact Jade McDowell at jmcdowell@eastoregonian.com or 541-564-4536.


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