Public Health update: Staffing plans, funding, and partnership on potential Covid-19 Vaccine Clinic (Updated)

by beth on January 5, 2021

Post image for Public Health update: Staffing plans, funding, and partnership on potential Covid-19 Vaccine Clinic (Updated)

Above: If all goes as planned, Southborough will welcome an interim Public Health Director this month, as the longtime Director moves into a 6-hr per week support role. (images L-R from twitter and BOH meeting video)

On New Year’s Eve, the Board of Health voted to accept upcoming staff resignations and appoint a new interim, part-time Public Health Director. They also discussed news of a confirmed partnership to support a potential Covid-19 vaccination clinic in Southborough.

Here are the highlights on the updates.

Staffing resolution “in process”

Dr. Heather Alker’s appointment, effective January 11th, is pending approval by the Advisory Committee of transferring $33K from the Town’s Reserve Funds. That’s a vote Advisory’s chair gave the BOH chair confidence will happen. Advisory is scheduled to meet tomorrow evening, January 6th. The item is on their agenda.

The pending approval is made more likely by the expectation that the Town will be reimbursed for unbudgeted expenses this year related to Covid-19. That’s thanks to the extension of CARES Act funding to the end of 2021.

[Editor’s Note: In my December 22nd post, I mistakenly wrote that the federal package didn’t include extended funding. Statements made by Public Health staff in last week’s meeting prompted me to look again. It turns out, that while new funds weren’t added, the deadline for spending the previously approved amount was extended.]

BOH’s Chair is also hopeful that they will be able to leverage CARES Act funds to cover half the cost of adding a full-time Public Health Nurse. (Part-time nurse Emily Amico will be leaving on February 10th.)

Current Public Health Director, Paul Pisinski, has been in that role for 28 years. On January 11th, he’ll shift to a new support contractor position for 6 hours per week. In the meantime, Chair Mary Lou Woodford suggested Pisinski start putting together cheat sheets and checklists for the new director to reference. While Alker brings medical and public health expertise, this will be her first time working in a local Public Health Department.

As for the Board’s purported inability to staff by-contract, that’s something Woodford was happy to share has been resolved. She explained that she received the revised legal opinion she had been seeking:

It’s very clear that the Board of Health has complete autonomy to enter into contracts, whether it be vendor contracts or employee contracts or whatever we feel we need to do to conduct the public health business of Southborough.

The Chair described the Board’s plan to hire a full-time Public Health Director, Public Health Nurse, and Administrative Assistant as a process. She asserted the process is moving in the right direction. The Board voted to support a proposed FY22 budget that includes funding for all three positions, plus per diem nurses and a “line” to allow increased health/sanitary inspections due to a construction boom.

The Director’s salary is estimated at $110K. Woodford justified that every other Town Department head with a contracted employment agreement makes over $100K. She said it was reasonable, in keeping with other Towns, and in line with market demand.

Covid-19 Vaccine Clinic

Woodford informed the Board that Bing Yeo, owner of local AFC Urgent Care clinics, “absolutely agreed” to partner with Southborough on its Covid-19 Vaccine Clinic. The Town is working on a Memorandum of Understanding between Southborough Fire Chief Stephen Achilles and AFC.

The Town and AFC will each file applications to hold a clinic. Whoever receives approval first will work with the other to hold the Southborough clinic. The clinic would be held in town, but logistics would be mainly handled by AFC. 

Most details are still TBD as details of the state’s distribution plans are still largely unclear.

Meeting video

If you previously tried to check in on what happened at the December 31st meeting, you may have been (like me) frustrated to see that the first half hour of the meeting was cut off. The glitch was fixed this morning. You can now view the entire meeting here.

Updated (1/6/20 8:22 am): A reader’s comment highlighted that a “Covid-19 Clinic” could be for testing or treatment. I had neglected to specify “vaccine clinic” in the headline and throughout the story.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 southsider January 5, 2021 at 4:14 PM

Good news..assuming Advisory approves the BOH plan.
Interesting that they now feel they can ignore the legal opinion given last month about their ability to hire contractors.
After some of the other recent issues over legal actions and opinions, I’m detecting a pattern of errors or mistakes or erroneous guidance that maybe deserves scrutiny.

And, if anyone from Advisory is reading this… I, for one, can’t think of a more pressing need for use of Reserve Funds than a pandemic.

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2 beth January 5, 2021 at 5:14 PM

To clarify, they aren’t ignoring legal advice. They asked for a review of the legal advise and received a revised opinion.

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3 Need info January 5, 2021 at 11:00 PM

What is this ‘clinic’? A one time testing clinic? Vaccinations? An on-going testing activity? They really need to release far more information about what it is they are applying for. Southborough has been red for many weeks now and there is no place for southborough residents to get tested easily. Any place with appointments is booked the instant they are released.

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4 beth January 6, 2021 at 8:20 AM

Sorry – poor wording on my part. I covered the issue of the Town launching a Covid-19 Vaccine Clinic. Because I knew what I was talking about, I didn’t notice that readers wouldn’t! I’ll update

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