Belmont Health Dept. filling posts, preparing for future
ST. CLAIRSVILLE – The Belmont County Health Department is looking to fill some positions as it prepares to take on additional responsibilities.
Among those to be hired is a contact tracer to get in touch with people who might have been exposed to COVID-19.
For months, the state has been contracting with PCG public consulting group to handle the duties of tracing contacts of new COVID-19 cases. Belmont County Health Department Deputy Commissioner Robert Sproul said this contract is ending and contact tracing will fall back on the county departments.
“As soon as PCG stops, it’ll be back on us, so we’ll be responsible for dealing with that. We’re still working on the details of that. We’re waiting to see exactly what that looks like for us,” Sproul said.
However, Sproul said although the job title would be the same, the scope of work will be less compared to duties during the height of the pandemic, when contact tracers would get in touch with anyone who might have been exposed to the virus whenever a new case of COVID-19 would be reported. The tracer would focus solely on cases among vulnerable populations.
“It’s going to be the congregate facilities and hospitalizations, that’s where we’re going to focus,” Sproul said. “There’s a new grant (from the state) coming out to help with that (position).”
He said the department is also pursuing different grant programs.
“Our numbers are staying down and there’s no hospitalizations as of today, and again our deaths have not moved. We’re looking pretty good, and I hope it continues,” he said. “There’s no monkeypox in Belmont County. There was just one case in Ohio. As long as we keep that path, we’re good.”
Sproul said more staffing changes are in the works, with a search for five new staff members not counting the contact tracer position. He said staff members are retiring or moving to other jobs. These include a medical assistant, a secretary, a fiscal assistant, a grant officer and a post in the vital statistics division.
“We’re interviewing and we’re hoping to fill those spots and keep moving forward,” he said. “Some of them have (left), that’s the problem when you put a two-week notice in. By the time you post, interview, it’s kind of tough because they’ve moved on and you lose that experience and knowledge because they’ve gone out the door and you’re training a new person.”
Talks are still ongoing with the Belmont County Board of Commissioners about the possibility of a new and larger health department building, with more parking space and room for department activities.
“That would be great,” Sproul said. “It sounds like it’s still moving forward, which is great. With everything in government it takes time and it’s a process.”
Sproul and county leaders have said the COVID-19 pandemic had underscored the importance of the health department’s work, and although the building is adequate, there were difficulties in meeting the strains that arose during the pandemic.