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Local health department hires new CEO, lays off handful of employees

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East Central District Health Department

East Central District Health Department, 4321 41st Ave., Columbus.

One major vacancy at East Central District Health Department/Good Neighbor Community Health Center has been filled, and a handful of workers in other positions have been let go.

East-Central representatives on Thursday morning told The Telegram that the person selected by the organization’s board of directions to act as chief executive officer is Patrick Peer. Currently, Peer serves as the CEO of the Community Health Center of Northeast Oklahoma.

Peer’s first day of work is slated to be Sept. 30. A group of former employee’s final appearance at both clinics was Aug. 6 when they were notified that day they were being laid off.

“On the sixth (of August) we did some downsizing over our total employee base – we had about a 4-percent staff reduction to right-size our organization,” said Julie McClure, director of communications, development and marketing for both East Central and Good Neighbor clinics. “We need to be correctly sized for what we are doing and to maximize efficiency.”

McClure said that East Central and both Good Neighbor clinics in Columbus and Fremont, in total, have 111-115 employees. While McClure declined to address the exact amount of employees let go, as well as whether that 111-115 number was before or after the restructuring, a 4-percent reduction from that ballpark range would mean about five employees were dismissed.

Peer comes to Nebraska with a solid set of credentials, according to released information from McClure. He holds multiple degrees, including a bachelor’s degree in health care management, a master’s degree in health care administration and a Master of Arts in education in curriculum.

“We are very excited to have Patrick join our team at East Central District Health Department,” said Wendy Ramaekers, president of East Central’s board of directors, through an email to The Telegram. “Patrick's experience, easy demeanor, and leadership skills are exactly what we are seeking in a new CEO.”

The hiring of Peer comes months after former East Central/Good Neighbor CEO William McInnis was put on paid leave before resigning on March 12 amid allegations made by State Auditor Charlie Janssen’s office that he fraudulently spent company funds on hotel room expenses, gas purchases and various meal outings. The report released by the auditor’s office also highlighted unreasonable expenses incurred with company funds in instances of meal expenses, per diem payments and other expenses that exceeded the amount approved in the ECDHD policies manual.

Platte County Attorney Carl Hart Jr. this week said an investigation completed by the Columbus Police Department into McInnis’ actions determined that the case was unfounded as a criminal matter. The case is closed at this point.

Through his new role, Peer will oversee the state-approved East Central District Health Department, which provides services to 52,100 residents in Boone, Colfax, Nance and Platte counties. The Department offers several programs that impact the community, family and environmental health. These include: WIC, substance abuse prevention, minority health, early development networks, immunizations, overseeing public health emergencies, radon, water and lead testing, and overall district surveillance.

Good Neighbor Community Health Center, a separate non-profit organization with its own governing board that is housed within and shares key management staff with the East-Central District Health Department, offers low-cost care services that include family, pediatric and general practice medicine, OB/GYN care, reproductive health, dentistry and behavioral health care. In 2018, provided information shows that that Good Neighbor clinic locations served 10,475 patients encompassing more than 50 zip codes.

Peer was unavailable for an interview Thursday afternoon when The Telegram contacted his Oklahoma office.

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at sam.pimper@lee.net.

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News Editor

Sam Pimper is the news editor of The Columbus Telegram, Schuyler Sun and The Banner-Press newspapers. He graduated with a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2015.

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