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County extends contract with Regional West for public health services

County extends contract with Regional West for public health services

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An 18-month pandemic helped highlight the Scotts Bluff County Health Department and the work of Scotts Bluff County Public Health Director Paulette Schnell.

During Monday’s Scotts Bluff County Commissioner’s meeting, commissioners approved renewal of a contract with Regional West Medical Center.

At the commissioner’s July 5 meeting, Tim Osterhelm, Regional West chief operating officer, and Schnell reviewed the contract with commissioners.

Schnell has filled the position of Scotts Bluff County Public Health director since July 2016, after the retirement of the previous health director, Bill Wineman. At that time, Scotts Bluff County reduced the size of the health department and partnered with Regional West Medical Center and Panhandle Public Health District.

With Schnell’s experience and the work done by the health department, Osterhelm said some changes were made to the current contract. Traditional duties include managing budgets and staffing were included in the contract, as well as some that were not noted, such as oversight of applications for assistance or medical relief by indigent persons. She would also respond to any public health emergency in coordination with state and local partners. Her position also includes application for grants, representing the county on its local emergency operations plan (LEOP) committee.

During the last year, Schnell has been among the health officials at the forefront of the pandemic response in the county. She would serve in a similar role if there were other public health needs, “the public health that she does, should there be an outbreak of Lyme disease, or tick borne illnesses, and other infections disease that public health monitors.”

The proposed contract did call for a 10% increase, from $39,000 to $42,900.

“As we looked at year over year type increases, there haven’t been any,” Osterholm said.

Commissioners agreed the increase, which would amount to a 2% increase over the last two years, was certainly well-earned. In a previous meeting, Lisa Rein, Scotts Bluff County human resources manager, said the agreement had resulted in a cost savings for the county as the county no longer had to pay for benefits, such as medical costs, vacation or other costs associated with employment of a director.

“During the pandemic, Paulette was such an asset,” Commissioner Ken Meyer, who also represents Scotts Bluff County on the Panhandle Public Health District board, said. “...I think it’s a great partnership.”

Commissioner Mark Harris also said Schnell was an asset, particularly “with her expertise and helpfulness. We certainly found it to be terribly important over the last 18 months.”

The contract is a four-year agreement. The agreement between Regional West Medical Center and Scotts Bluff County can be terminated at any time with 90-day written notice from either party.

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