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Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Annette Mercatante thought she was ending her public health career. In County Clair.

However, after a controversial school mask arrangement prompted the county council of commissioners to split and advertise his two posts earlier this year, Mercatante was the last day on Wednesday.

Two people have been hired to replace his previous dual role as medical director and public health officer.

“I just want people to know that it wasn’t voluntary retirement. A lot of people say, ‘Congratulations on your retirement,’ and the last thing I want to do is leave this staff and public health right now. I’m leaving very hard.” with heart, “he said during the interview.

Members of the county board disputed Mercatante and said there was a communication problem with the introduction of a temporary mandate for the K-12 mask in January. In February, they split his work in two.

Mercatante has loudly considered moving as an end.

He was joined this week by other health officials who looked back on what they said had been a few painful months in preparation for his departure.

When asked, Mercatante and others cited Mercatante and others as their biggest steps in assessing the health needs of the community, combating hepatitis A, promoting vaccination widely, combating diversity and health equity, and enhancing the Agency’s public role and place. management.

Mercatante said she wished she could have done more by researching unfavorable childhood experiences as an indicator that early-stage trauma causes health problems in adulthood.

“It’s part of my sadness to leave,” he said. However, he said it was re-emerging as a key component of plans to improve the health of the local community, especially in the aftermath of a pandemic.

New health officer ‘is good leadership,’ administrator says

The departure of Mercatante means that Clair County Health Department staff must prepare to work under the new health officer, Liz King, who was promoted on June 16. This may interest you : Can food taxes and subsidies help improve health outcomes? Today. King was previously director of nursing and community health in the health department.

Greg Brown, the administrator of the department, was one of those who expressed confidence in King’s appointment.

“In the end, we’re doing well,” he said. “Liz is a good leader.”

“I think Liz will be a great leader,” Mercatante said. “I think our health department is strong. Public health is as strong as ever. It’s not going away because I’m gone. It’s much bigger than me.”

In his statement, King spoke of the departure of Mercatante.

“It is said that the greatest leaders are not ‘leaders’ but ‘leaders’, allowing other team members to grow and learn,” King said. “He was a champion in that and that has changed the members of his administrative team.”

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Brown: Model with part-time physician access is ‘going backwards’

Unlike a full-time public health officer, local health authorities have a part-time medical director whose statutes require at least 16 hours a week.

Officials have said it is difficult to meet, especially in rural areas. On the same subject : Seattle’s Pro Sports teams celebrate and support Seattle Pride, gender inclusivity in youth sports.

The person offered this role, Dr Najibah Rehman, is working temporarily after county administrator Karry Hepting said Rehman had agreed to a different position.

“New initiatives are difficult to take until we have a solid path of leadership,” Brown said.

The medical director helps to set up and maintain services and sign nurses’ standing orders. There are concerns that temporary appointments are hampering the application for grants and jeopardizing community relations.

Brown said one concern is the health department’s teen health center. There, Mercatante first became a director of public health before becoming director of medicine.

Mercatante and Brown said teenagers at the Port Huron institution could also lose more direct access to the doctor and were more dependent on referrals.

“We’re losing a lot of medical support. It’s also family planning. It’s a loss,” Brown said Tuesday. “I think we’re going back with model changes. Back to the fact that the health officer and the medical director are separate.

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Local officials reflect on Mercatante’s community impact

Justin Westmiller, the county’s director of emergency response, worked closely with health officials during the spread of the coronavirus. On the same subject : WHO: Monkey pox is not yet a global health emergency.

Although he did not think Mercatante’s departure would change the partnership, he said he made decisions that “jeopardized his career” and remained “true to his medical beliefs”, doing more than any ordinary civil servant might think. . you have to do. “

Port Huron mayor James Freed, the only government official who referred to Mercatante in a State of the County speech in March, said they did not agree with “many things” during COVID, but that he received an “honest, truthful and honest” overview. makes decisions and appreciates peers like them because they “don’t tell me what I want to hear.”

Public information official Alyse Nichols said the beginning of the pandemic was a unique opportunity to share doctors’ knowledge with weekly live Facebook chats.

“Being so transparent to the public and showing all that empathy and saying if it didn’t know is something special,” he said.

“She has always been accessible and transparent to staff,” said Rebecca Campau, nursing manager.

“I’ve been here 27 years from now,” said Jennifer Michaluk, director of health education and planning, with a focus on Mercatante. “You saw there were gaps where we weren’t behind the table, but you said we had to be there. We’re in public health, we have to be behind that table, our voice is important because you always saw things from the population. Level versus narrow view. just a huge impact.

Nichols said Mercatante also kept an eye on “partnerships,” adding: “I mean the efforts he made to make these partnerships for our black and brown community. I haven’t seen that in my local leaders. in the local government or at the state level. “

In the latter, Mercatante helped run community clinics on the south side of Port Huron, citing the lack of access to the COVID vaccine for some minority groups.

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Keeping momentum up through COVID and beyond after an emotional turn

Diane Lois, the county’s emergency response coordinator, said Mercatante’s presence has helped the department build its expertise with other agencies.

Now they hope to keep up the momentum.

But Lois said they were still dealing with the emotional impact of leaving Mercatante.

“When that happened, Dr. Merc, it was a big blow to the stomach. It affected everyone here. It’s like, ‘What do you mean?'” Lois said. done so much work. We believe in it, we know what’s going on, we understand why we do what we do & amp; mldr; So many people don’t know about us and what we do. It was a punishment for doing our job.

Mercatante said he did not intend to retire as he expected to have another chance to take office.

“I have not signed the dotted line. I hope to continue my role in public health at the national level,” he said. “I’ll say it again – forced to leave, I feel like I want to use my skills until I’m ready to retire. That’s my goal.”

Contact Jackie Smith at (810) 989-6270 or jssmith@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @Jackie20Smith.

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