When a person is found to have a communicable disease (COVID-19, HIV, tuberculosis, chlamydia, etc), one of the jobs of the nurses at the County Health Department is to identify those people who were …
When a person is found to have a communicable disease (COVID-19, HIV, tuberculosis, chlamydia, etc), one of the jobs of the nurses at the County Health Department is to identify those people who were exposed, and have them quarantined, tested or treated (depending on the communicable disease).
This mission of theirs has been instrumental in protecting all of us for well over 100 years.
Two years ago, I tested positive for latent tuberculosis (this is a stage where it is not contagious, but needs to be treated). I had to go to the County Health Department to have them watch me take every dose of my medication for three months, to ensure I had completed the treatment (as required by law).
It was inconvenient, but the rules were put in place to protect all of us…so I did it.
Right now, our County Health Department is trying their best to follow the Missouri Department of Health’s rapidly changing orders on how to protect our community. They have come to work on their off days to start contract tracing as soon as they hear about a case, and sometimes worked late into the night.
They are not doctors, and they are not infection control experts.
They are given orders by the state on what to do, and when they have questions, or unusual circumstances, they defer to the state epidemiologists and public health experts for guidance. They are understaffed to handle the volume of work that is expected/demanded of them right now and are truly doing their best.
When our Health Department nurses are calling people and trying to figure out who may have been exposed and when, most members of our community have worked closely with them.
Recently however, an increasing number of people have been belligerent, threatening, and refused to cooperate. In two notable cases, the nurses who told me what happened sounded scared and appeared to have been crying.
This is not acceptable.
Everyone has a right to be upset by the current situation, and is entitled to an opinion about the policies put in place to try to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in our community, but directing frustration or anger at our Health Department nurses doing their job is not the right way.
If you disagree with a law or feel your rights are being violated…contact your legislator or lawyer.
Our Health Department nurses and police officers should not have to endure cursing, yelling, or threatening for trying to do their job protecting all of us.
If you see or hear about abuse of the Health Department taking place, please stand up for our Health Department nurses.
(Dr. Michael Rothermich, M.D., has been a physician in Montgomery and Gasconade counties for 14 years. He previously worked out of the Hermann Area District Hospital’s Medical Clinic of Owensville).