County health administrator seeks increase in support of vaccinations in nursing homes

By Buck Collier, Special Correspondent
Posted 11/30/22

HERMANN — With the federal government phasing out its financial support for providing vaccines to residents of nursing homes, the head of the Gasconade County Health Department hopes the agency …

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County health administrator seeks increase in support of vaccinations in nursing homes

Posted

HERMANN — With the federal government phasing out its financial support for providing vaccines to residents of nursing homes, the head of the Gasconade County Health Department hopes the agency can step into that role.

“I would like to see us help support them in that fashion,” said agency Administrator Kenna Fricke during Monday morning’s regular session of the department’s Board of Trustees.

She explained that federal support for outside organizations such as pharmacies to provide vaccinations to nursing home residents is being phased out. It’s a service that she feels the county health agency can provide — especially as the holiday season brings with it the concern of increased flu and COVID cases, a threat that can be especially acute for nursing home residents.

Fricke noted that COVID still is with us, but the cases are not at severe as in the earlier days of the pandemic.

“Yes, it’s getting better, but COVID still does take a lot of our resources and time,” she said, adding that she expects some version the coronavirus be around for some time to come.

The desire to increase the agency’s role with nursing homes in the county — and the reference to continued efforts against COVID — links with the administrator’s belief that now is a good time to be adding to the agency’s nursing staff. Wearing an outfit of navy blue scrubs — indicative of her increased duty lately of being a nurse as well as the agency’s administrator — Fricke told the trustees that she wants to include at least a part-time nurse into the mix as she crafts the department’s 2023 operating budget.

“That is one thing I was going to look at in planning this budget,” she said.

“We’re still spread awfully thin,” she added.

Coming out of several years as a nurse in the Home Health Care Program operated by the Montgomery County Health Department, Fricke fills in whenever one of the Gasconade County agency’s nurses is unavailable.

According to Fricke, she envisioned a new nurse not only providing outreach service — such as regular visits to nursing homes — but also serving as what the administrator described as a “COVID coordinator.”

“I do think there needs to be another nurse available to this office,” she said, adding that she was undecided whether the position should be part-time or full-time.

Trustee Ruth Bock, a former administrator of the agency, suggested that the job be full time. “If the (2023) budget allows for it, you might not want to restrict yourself to a part-time person,” she said.

Funding will not be an issue for the next couple years, Fricke said, referring to funding still being allocated through federal grants. Indeed, she said, increased federal and state funding is possible through perhaps the next five years. But, she said, even with increased funding she has been reluctant to move too quickly on using the additional funding. However, that extra money will allow the agency to add to its nursing staff and possibly add a receptionist for the department’s Owensville office.

Board President Stan Hall urged Fricke to begin the process of hiring a registered nurse, which would allow her more flexibility in being able to manage the department.

Meanwhile, Fricke noted that efforts continue at upgrading the Owensville office, as well as deciding on making improvements to the Hermann office building or finding another location for the growing agency.

In other matters, she reminded the trustees that filing opens Tuesday, Dec. 6, for the three board seats that will be filled in the April 4 General Municipal Elections. Seats to be filled are held now by Mary Leeper, Susan Steinbeck and Molly Steinbeck. Trustees serve four-year terms. Filing will continue through Tuesday, Dec. 27.

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