GOLD BEACH, Ore. — The Oregon Health Authority says that it will begin a requested takeover of public health services in Curry County next week, though the process is expected to take several weeks to complete.
OHA's intervention came at the request of Curry County's board of commissioners, which approved an amended resolution covering the transfer of responsibility on Wednesday. Both OHA and Curry County agreed to terminate their existing agreements.
“I’m very happy that Curry County is entering a new era in public health for our citizens,” said commissioner Court Boice. “We have been working closely with OHA to ensure a smooth transition and look forward to a strong future partnership.”
Boice told NewsWatch 12 in an interview this week that Curry County Public Health has been struggling with short staffing and limited funds, particularly during the pandemic, and the agency was not "getting the job done."
Termination of the existing agreements is effective May 2, OHA said, and an exact date for transfer of public health authority has not yet been set. The agency said that it would be working with Curry County over the next several weeks on the transition of responsibilities.
Oregon law authorizes counties to pass public health authority to OHA. Though the law does not require that transfer to occur for 180 days, OHA indicated that the process would proceed quickly due to Curry County's staffing issues.
“We recognize the Curry County Board of Commissioners has the legal ability to transfer local public health authority to OHA. We will work closely with the board and its staff during the shift from local to state provision of public health services,” said Rachael Banks, M.P.A., director of the OHA Public Health Division. “We will thoroughly examine and address any potential gaps in public health services that have been provided in the county."
Public health duties include the current COVID-19 pandemic response, monitoring other communicable diseases and controlling outbreaks, ensuring access to safe drinking water, access to health programs for women and children, and licensing and inspecting food, pools, and lodging facilities.