Discussion ranged from staffing at the Cowlitz Family Health Center office in Cathlamet to how to handle exposures to bats.
Health center Executive Director Dian Cooper reported the center is trying to recruit a nurse practitioner to carry some of the load at the Cathlamet clinic while recruiting continues for a full-time physician to replace Dr. David Steves, who left earlier this year to return to his native Pennsylvania, leaving the clinic staffed with one nurse practitioner and a one-day-week visit from the center's lead medical director.
Cooper said a physician who will complete his residency training next year is interested in coming to the clinic, so they want to keep the position open for him. A second nurse practitioner could assist at the center's other clinics.
The center is looking forward to the implementation of the federal Health Care Protection Act and open enrollment in health insurance exchanges starting this fall, Cooper said. They've hired three outreach/enrollment workers, one of whom will work in Cathlamet.
In response to a question from the audience, Cooper said most people should be able to find cheaper coverage in the health insurance exchanges. The act requires all people to buy coverage, and no one can be denied coverage, Cooper said. "That's a step forward."
Regional Health Officer Dr. Alan Melnick feels people will find lower cost insurance than they now have.
"It will bring younger, healthier people into the pool and spread the risk around," he said.
Commissioner Blair Brady asked Dr. Melnick and county Health and Human Services Director Sue Cameron what reports of bat and human contact have been made this summer.
Cameron reported a child had been bitten after picking up a bat that a cat had caught. The bat had been captured, and the child was taken to an emergency room, where a physician ordered the start of injections.
Starting the shots was unnecessary, Cameron and Dr. Melnick said. The bat should have been tested before starting shots.
"The shots are very expensive," Dr. Melnick said. "They cost thousands of dollars. If you have the bat available for testing, have it tested. Only 5-10 percent of bats are infected. If the bat isn't available, yeah, then start the shots."