Jefferson County health administrator resigns

The Jefferson County Board of Health will retain George Bernadino as a consultant for three months

By BRYAN CLARK

bryan@spiritofjefferson.com

KEARNEYSVILLE – The Jefferson County Board of Health voted unanimously Friday to accept the resignation of Health Administrator George Bernadino after seven months on the job. They agreed to keep Bernadino on for three months as a consultant, during which time he will receive full pay and benefits.

The move comes a month after the board member Tom Trumble was chosen to replace Mark Shields as the chairman in a close 3-2 vote. Board members Willis Nowell and Robert Shefner backed Trumble. Board member Rosamond Burns backed Shields.

While the Board of Health described the resignation as “a mutual agreement,” they acknowledge that the Health Department has not been functioning well and has been understaffed.

“This health department has not served the citizens of Jefferson County well for a while now,” said Trumble. “We know that. We’ve had personnel turmoil, and we need to hire nurses. We need to rebuild this department. We just need to be candid here.”

At Friday’s meeting, the board also received a presentation concerning its liability insurance coverage.

The board recently received a letter outlining deficiencies from the state Department of Health and Human Resources. Trumble said those deficiencies have been or are now being addressed.

Trumble said he welcomed the letter. “I think it gave me the final checklist of what I need to fix,” he said.

“We discovered some time ago that we had some employees who had not been hired according to state procedures,” he said. “That is fixed.”

Trumble said the department is working to fix these issues, pointing out that they have recently hired a new health officer and a new registered nurse.

“We are going to rebuild the staff piece by piece with people who have a view toward the community,” he said. “We’ve spent too much time internally dealing with our problems. We had to, but by the first of the year, that has to be settled.”

Trumble said the department nonetheless remains seriously understaffed. The health board hopes to hire one sanitarian and three nurses in the near future. They currently have one sanitarian and one nurse.

“The biggest problem, frankly, is getting nurses on board, and we hope to do that in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

Trumble said the board will also examine hiring a part-time clerical staff member to assist with Medicaid billing, which he expects to increase dramatically under the Affordable Care Act.

Trumble indicated that the board may not hire a new administrator quickly, but will focus on finding an individual who has the necessary skills to complete the job.

“We all need to kind of take a deep breath here. The board doesn’t want to rush into hiring a new administrator,” he said, adding that “Eastern Panhandle salary requirements are much different than those in the state as a whole. So state maximums can make it difficult for me to recruit.”

Trumble said the board decided to keep Bernadino on as a consultant in order to ensure a smooth transition.

“The job of health administrator is very technically complicated,” he said. “Because it is complicated you don’t have a backup. There has to be a way for us to ensure that we transfer all the codes and the passwords and everything else.

“This is a tough job, and sometimes you burn out and you need to do something else for a while,” Trumble said. “We thank him for his service.”

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