Letter: ‘Are the Clark County residents really being served and protected, or are they just being told to move along and forget this ever happened?’

Area resident Rob Anderson, The Recovering Pastor, asks some tough questions of the Clark County Board of Health and other officials.

Editor’s note: Opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are those of the author alone and do not reflect the editorial position of ClarkCountyToday.com

Rob Anderson The Recovering Pastor
Rob Anderson The Recovering Pastor

Apparently, 81 COVID-19 deaths in Clark County “nursing homes” or Long Term Care Facilities (LTCF) is an acceptable number to the Board of Health (Clark County Councilors).

On March 24 of this week I gave public comment because it was the first time in a year the Board of Health (BoH) has allowed the public to speak. Think about that. For over a year, the BoH has not allowed the public to give comment. Even though Clark County residents are at the top of the organization chart, above Dr. Melnick and above BoH, they’ve kept the public silent even though the technology to facilitate public comment has been available the whole time.

March 24 happens to be the one-year anniversary of when Dr. Melnick, Clark County’s health officer and director of Clark County Public Health, issued a Health Advisory that forever changed the trajectory of the pandemic here in Clark County which led to loss of 81 lives. Before the advisory, Dr. Melnick dramatically held a press conference to herald the news… two people, a husband and wife in their 80’s, died of COVID-19 in PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. It was reported and believed that the couple contracted COVID-19 in their LTCF.  But what did Dr. Melnick do as a result? Just a few days later he issued a Health Advisory prohibiting any LTCF from denying any new resident even if they had a pending COVID-19 test result ensuring many more would meet a similar fate.

Read it for yourself, the first part of the Health Advisory makes sense and seems to give direction that will protect lives, but I can’t say the same for the second half. 

“Long term care facilities (LTCF) should place residents with respiratory symptoms on standard/droplet/contact precautions, AND should not deny admission of new residents based on a pending COVID-19 test.”

And after this Health Advisory, a total of 81 people — grandparents, brothers, sisters, moms and dads  — would perish. 

In my public comment to the BoH, I asked this question: “If a county building was deemed safe, yet 81 residents died as a result of being in that building, would there be an investigation from the county? If a plane crashed or a train derailed or a bridge collapsed, we’d investigate and get to the bottom, would we not?” 

Yet, to this day, the BoH has looked the other way. 

I tried sharing these thoughtful and rational questions that all Clark County residents should want to know.  Even though no one else gave comment, I was still reduced to three minutes and was abruptly cut off before sharing all nine questions that need to be answered.

Questions like, “Why did Dr. Melnick issue the Health Advisory without notifying the BoH or inform Public at the next BoH meeting the following day?” And “How did you, or did you at all, evaluate LTCFs in Clark County to be ready and prepared for your March 24 Health Advisory? Why did you believe that moving patients into facilities that often see staff rotate from multiple facilities in one day was safer than more stationary staffed hospitals?  Why did he believe that staff, supplies and training were better in LTCF’s than hospitals?” (for the full list of questions check out my post on The Recovering Pastor Facebook Page).

As I stated, I didn’t get through all nine questions before I was abruptly cut off, but I’m sure the BoH got the point.  And do you know what their reaction was?

Nothing.  No comment.  As if it never happened.  Apparently, the BoH thinks that 81 lives is an acceptable number of residents to sacrifice, and discussing new septic applications is more important. 

But it’s not a big mystery why they seem so uninterested.  The same “Board of Health” is the same county board that manages all the litigation issues, and if they look too closely and get to the bottom of these questions it will probably mean big lofty lawsuits.  So I ask, are the Clark County residents really being served and protected, or are they just being told to move along and forget this ever happened?

Rob Anderson
The Recovering Pastor