By MARK EVANS
Ste. Genevieve Herald
Jeanette Wood, administrator of Riverview at the Park Nursing Facility since Ste. Genevieve County took over its operation in January 2003, has been named provisional administrator of the county health department.
The position has been open since Sandra Bell retired the first week of July. Bell had served as administrator since 2009.
Actually, Wood’s official appointment was held up due to a confusing state statute.
The county health board had appointed Wood, but Presiding Commissioner Garry Nelson came across a state statute that seems to indicate that County Commissions should appoint health department administrators. In fact, it indicated that the appointment should be made annually.
Nelson said he had never seen that statute and that, to his knowledge, the appointment has never been made by the commission.
He was waiting to hear back from attorney Ivan Schraeder to clarify.
Nelson noted that normally, elected county boards appoint their own personnel. The commission would only appoint personnel for appointed boards.
If, however, the statute is to be interpreted literally, the decision would apparently fall to the Commission, not the health board.
Nelson stressed that he wasn’t looking to oppose Wood’s appointment.
“I’m not doubting your ability to do it at all,” Nelson said, “but if that is the law we have to do it. I’m not saying we wouldn’t make the same appointment.”
The conversation came during last Thursday’s Commission meeting. Nelson said the appointment would have to officially take place this week – if the Commission needs to make it.
“I can’t ignore it,” Nelson said. “What it says is we have to appoint one every February. We have never done that. In the 15 years I’ve been here, we have never appointed the health care administrator. Why would we appoint the health care administrator and not the ambulance administrator?“
Yet that is what the statute appears to say.
“I don’t want to dampen your spirits because I’m glad you made that choice,” Nelson told her.
“It’s not going to dampen my spirits,” Wood replied, “because personally, I think I can do a good job.”
Nelson said they certainly weren’t going to “go out and hire a corporate headhunter” to find an administrator with Wood willing to take the post.
Wood pointed out that the position has been extensively advertised.
Robert Bach, president of the county health board, expressed confidence that Wood, who had served many years as a Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital administrator before taking the Riverview position, would be an ideal fit.
The board had hoped that Julie Flieg, the health department’s diabetic educator, communicable disease and child care health consultant, would at least take the position on an interim basis. However, she opted to remain in her original position.
“We asked Julie Flieg to be the interim administrator, either until such time that she decided she might want the position permanently,” Bach said.
He said he was glad when Wood approached the board about taking the position.”
“We feel confident that she is more than capable of doing the job,” he said.
He gave an explanation as to why the “provisional” title is being given to Wood.
“Even though Jeanette has a wealth of knowledge in regards to health care, this probably is just a teensy bit different than what she’s been used to,” Bach said. “So, it’s to give her the opportunity to develop a comfort level within the position and, if, at some point in time, say, yes I would like to continue in this or not.”
Bach feels like the board was fortunate to find Wood.
“I’m confident she can handle it,” he said. “A person with Jeanette’s experience and academic achievements. I think we are pleased with the fact that she has made the offer to discuss this with us, so we’re trying to move on it.”
Wood told Nelson she definitely planned on reporting during Commission meetings, like Bell had done. She said she will be there at the beginning of the meetings, “so I’m the first one out the chute, so to speak.”
Nelson said he was glad, adding that since Bell retired the “communication has not been as good as it could be.”
Bach said he didn’t think he would have to encourage Wood to be visible.
“I don’t think we have to encourage her to do that,” he said. “She knows, I think, how to do that. We have every confidence in her ability to not only administer to personnel, but also to administer to the community. I think she’s well-versed in that. So we have every confidence that that’s what she’ll do.”