Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Did We Miss the Boat on a Bi-County Health Department?

About ten years ago, both Lehigh and Northampton Counties considered, but ultimately rejected, a bi-county health department. Former NorCo Exec John Stoffa argued for this regionalism, noting that a contagious disease knows no boundaries. There were numerous fierce advocates, including NorCo Council member Peg Ferraro and LC Comm'r Percy Dougherty. But the price tag, lack of financial assistance from wealthy area hospitals and added layer of government bureaucracy doomed it. In hindsight, was this the right call?

"Why create a health department when we can't afford the level of government we have now?" asked then Council member Ron Angle. "Why lead people on such a trip if you don't have the ability to buy a car?" 

At the time it was under consideration, it would have cost both counties about $500,000 per year and would have absorbed separate health departments within the cities. 

Dr. David Lyon, who headed the now defunct health department, explained some of the difficulties encountered: "Everybody wants someone else to make the commitment first. Allentown wants to know what Bethlehem's prepared to do. The County wants to know what the cities are prepared to do. The hospitals want to know what government's prepared to do."

There were also questions whether a regional department would have been beneficial to anyone outside the cities. Would someone in Portland or Slatington really be helped the same way as someone living in the heart of the Lehigh Valley's cities? Proponents thought so, but I was dubious. 

This was a rare instance in which Angle and Lamont McClure were on the same page. They both opposed the idea. So did I. 

After a year of Covid-19, did we miss an opportunity? 

My personal opinion is No. Counties that have active health departments seemed to have done no better in responding to this public health crisis,and may have actually done worse than we did. 

What do you think? 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I oppose regionalism in all respects. while this instance is not city vs rural. The whole idea of regionalism is to bail out the mismanagement of urban areas by those who have worked hard to escape the one party disaster of our cities.

Anonymous said...

This is an issue that has been around for many years (at least forty or more). It is a really great idea. It just isn't affordable. A 5 County Health Bureau which includes three smaller Counties i.e. Carbon, Monroe might work if the State would help in the financing of such a bureaucracy. Don't hold your breath. Regardless of how you do it, it is too expensive a program to fund for two Counties.

Anonymous said...

I agree with you. Our government failed us during this mess. It went into hiding, issued nonsensical edicts, ignored math and science, and destroyed the economy. The state health department repeatedly for months and months delivered hilariously incorrect numbers and local health departments simply went along. No extra layer of bureaucracy would have prevented the Gracedale holocaust. Asking for more government seems rather ridiculous, in light of government's miserable failure over the last year.

Anonymous said...

The last thing we need is a new bureaucracy and the tax levy to support it. With two major health networks and two major metropolitan health bureaus operating successfully, why would we be looking to change? Our extended family experiences with CoVid vaccinations administered through St. Luke’s, LVHN, and the Bethlehem Health Bureau were flawless. Smaller local efforts undertaken by entities such as the Borough of Bath, Wind Gap Pharmacy, etc. complemented those organizations. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Anonymous said...

Not sure any US government entity, federal, state, local, large or small would or could have handled COVID well because of exactly what Stoffa says, the virus doesn't give a shit about borders, and the general American public has a wide spectrum of hygiene standards along with concern, empathy and understanding of science.

Anonymous said...

It always blows my mind how much money is wasted in government administration redundancy between Lehigh and Northampton Counties, let alone municipalities and school districts.

Provincialism always wins out.

Bernie O'Hare said...

"I agree with you. Our government failed us during this mess."

The federal and state government failed us. I was very impressed and still am at how most local governments responded to the pandemic. I do agree that many sent the wrong message by shutting down and hiding from the public they serve. No government should ever close its doors to the public. But there are other local governments that did a lot of good.

Anonymous said...

Bethlehem would have never gone along with it.

Anonymous said...

In Lehigh County we have a cumulative total of only abut 20 COVID deaths of otherwise healthy, working age citizens out of a population of about 350,000.

All you've got to do to know that is look at the Coroner's data and a little CDC data. There isn't a "pandemic" and there never was.

We *did* have Dick Levine's criminal negligence trigger a large number of LTCF deaths (immediately *after* he evacuated his Mother to the safety of a luxury hotel), but that's an entirely different matter more akin to cholera being knowingly let loose in the death camps.

The worse state and county governments shot themselves in the foot in the lockdown hoax, the bigger their slice of the $1.9T stolen from taxpayers, borrowed from the Chinese, and printed-up as fiat currency. Don't think that was lost on them -- especially when the facts on the ground did not in any way show large-scale morbidity and mortality in the prime-of-life population and they then began to shriek imbecilically about the statistically meaningless metric "Cases!!!!"

Yes, some people died of the Wuhan Flu just as people every year die of one contagion or another. That doesn't mean the response wasn't a scam on the part of the political class enabled by their duping of ignorant, scientifically illiterate lockdown fetishists.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the shutdowns, if one looks at the data for the states with the top ten number of cases, and looks at the totality of the data (both cases per capita and deaths per capita), one would be hard pressed to come up with what the shutdown states got for their efforts.

Other than maybe a larger piece of the 1.9 trillion....

https://www.worldometers.info/coronavirus/country/us/

Note that these generally are also the states with the largest populations.

Even worse, currently (as of yesterday) the top ten states in number of new cases per capita are Connecticut, Michigan, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Vermont, Minnesota, Wyoming, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire. Only one "free" state (Wyoming) on the list. Florida and Texas are 21st and 27th.

Anonymous said...

Stoffa waned to create this bottomless bureaucratic money pit and also dump Gracedale. The guy was a fountain of bad ideas.

Bernie O'Hare said...

12:27, this post is not about the lockdowns so u are off topic. Also, I love Wyoming but all 50 states are free. If you are confined here, please move