As a commissioner and a citizen of Cherokee County, I am concerned about the working atmosphere at the Cherokee County Health Department. After investigating the issues by obtaining independent information, it is my conclusion that the Health Department is currently in a state of chaos that has reached critical proportions. Moreover, these problems have been ongoing, unaddressed, and unresolved for a considerable period of time, creating a deep chasm of mistrust, anger, and irreconcilable differences among personnel, present and past.
In spite of the high level of professionalism and quality of Health Department employees, a contentious and toxic work environment can only have a negative impact on each employee’s ability to deliver qualify healthcare services to our citizens.
When confronted with anger and division to this degree, people commonly resort to finger-pointing, name-calling, and assignations of blame, as has happened in this situation. These actions only serve to deflect attention from the real issues and actually increase hostility and alienation of the opposing parties. Most of us quickly forget that, when you point your finger at someone else, there are three fingers pointing back at you.
Regardless of my personal level of concern, I know that the county commission does not have the authority to intervene. By statute, the commission cannot hire or terminate Health Department personnel or direct the Health Board to make decisions. Given the current degree of antagonism, I am not optimistic that these issues can be amicably resolved, however, the Health Board and the Health Department leadership must solve these problems internally.
In my opinion, the Health Board and Health Department leadership should be given the opportunity to resolve these issues as they deem appropriate. Such a resolution should include provisions to ensure equal treatment of all personnel, the reestablishment of a healthy and productive work environment free of antagonism, and a refocusing on providing quality healthcare to our citizens.
If the Health Department Board finds it cannot agree upon a satisfactory resolution between all parties, I would favor a plan in which the county hire an independent mediator with the authority to interview at an off-site location current or past CCHD employees or any other persons with relevant information to the crisis at hand. The content of these interviews should be confidential to allow for complete disclosure by individuals. At the conclusion of the independent investigation, the mediator would present a report to the Health Board for appropriate action.