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Four Corners health board holds off on appointing dentist

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The Butler County Board of Supervisors is holding off on approving the appointment of York dentist Elizabeth Papineau to the Four Corners Health Department Board of Health until they know her opinion of the COVID-19 vaccines.

Four Corners Executive Director Laura McDougall appeared before the Butler County board on Nov. 1 to ask for its approval of Papineau's appointment to the Four Corners health board.

Four Corners covers Butler, Polk, York and Seward counties. As a district board of health, Nebraska law requires the Four Corners health board to include "one member of each county board in the district, at least one physician, at least one dentist and one or more public-spirited men or women interested in the health of the community from each county in the district."

Papineau would fill the seat on the Four Corners health board that must be occupied by a dentist, following previous dentist board member Scott Wieting's move to Colorado.

"We really rely on our dentist to advise us on oral health issues," McDougall said at the Nov. 1 meeting. "...We do dental screenings in schools and … if we see … dental decay or issues, the kids are referred to a dentist. … And also we do some fluoride rinses. It's all up to the parents if they want to access those services, but that's primarily where our dentist is very active on our board."

Butler County Board Chairman and District 7 Supervisor Anthony Whitmore and Butler County Health Care Center CEO Don Naiberk currently represent Butler County on the Four Corners health board.

In a Monday, Nov. 8, email to the Banner-Press, McDougall explained what it takes to appoint a doctor or dentist to the health board.

"It requires a majority of the county boards to approve after appointment by the … health board. So in our case, at least three of the four counties in our district need to approve (Papineau's) appointment. It is stated in the interlocal agreement signed by the counties at the formation of the Four Corners Health District," McDougall said in the Nov. 8 email.

At the Nov. 1 Butler County board meeting, McDougall said Papineau had been appointed by the health board. In a Tuesday, Nov. 9 email to the Banner-Press, McDougall said Polk County has approved Papineau's appointment, and that McDougall will meet with the other county boards in the coming weeks.

District 5 Supervisor Jan Sypal broached the subject of COVID-19 at the Butler County board's Nov. 1 meeting with a question: "How does (Papineau) feel about mandates versus choice in the state of Nebraska?"

A lengthy discussion about COVID-19 ensued. In the end, the supervisors did not take a vote on Papineau's approval. Before voting, the Butler County board asked to speak to Papineau at the county board's Nov. 15 meeting to consider her opinion of the COVID-19 vaccines.

The district health board cannot issue mandates regarding vaccines, masks, quarantine/isolation, school closures or Directed Health Measures. Federal and state governments, city councils and school, township, village and county boards are responsible for setting those policies.

When it comes to COVID-19, the health department has shared public health recommendations that it receives from the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), which the DHHS gets from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

McDougall is not a member of the health board, but in her Nov. 9 email, she said the health board has been supportive of Four Corners' public health endeavors.

"The Four Corners Board has been a great support to the department in the past five years to create programs and services to enrich our communities with opportunities for physical activity and nutrition, help people to quit tobacco, help people with their diabetes, provide free cancer screenings, vaccines, COVID tests, dental screenings, etc.," McDougall said in the Nov. 9 email.

Molly Hunter is a reporter for The Banner-Press. Reach her via email at molly.hunter@lee.net.

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