Judy Nieuwenhuis speaks to supervisors

Judy Nieuwenhuis, nurse administrator for O’Brien County Public Health, speaks to the board of supervisors about her desire to hire another part-time employee to work in the public health office.

PRIMGHAR—The O’Brien County Public Health Office is looking to hire another part-time employee.

Nurse administrator Judy Nieuwenhuis told the board of supervisors Tuesday, Nov. 26, that having another part-time public health employee would allow the public health office to expand the existing services it provides.

Since the office recently was certified to accept insurance from Medicare, Medicaid and Wellmark Blue Cross, Blue Shield, it can offer services to more people.

“We can take care of some of those people that kind of fall through the cracks because they can’t afford to go to the clinic and pay their copay,” Nieuwenhuis said.

“They don’t have to get a copay if they come see us, so we can serve some of those people that really can’t afford to go but still want to get their shots and stuff.”

Having another part-time employee would allow an additional person to accompany Nieuwenhuis when she makes home visits, some of which can be unsafe for one person.

“We have some clients that have schizophrenia that we go and give injections to, and there’s been now a couple of times where you’re by yourself and it just isn’t safe,” she said.

Nieuwenhuis and public health nurse Erin Smith work in the office on a part-time basis. Nieuwenhuis typically works Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays while Smith is in the office on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

The public health office also contracts a Spanish-language interpreter, Raquel Pick, who handles translation work for the office on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

Office manager Cindy Ramirez works full time, but Nieuwenhuis pointed out Ramirez is not able to administer vaccinations to people who come to the office wanting those.

Board chair Sherri Bootsma asked Nieuwenhuis if it would be more beneficial to make one of the public health office’s existing part-time positions a full-time one instead of hiring another part-time employee.

Nieuwenhuis said neither she nor Smith wants to work full time.

“That’s why I thought if we just get one more part-time person, then we’ve got two people on every day and then we’re only paying for half of insurance,” Nieuwenhuis said.

Board member Dan Friedrichsen asked if there is someone in the office who would be willing to become a full-time employee in the future.

Nieuwenhuis said one applicant she has spoken with about working in the public health office indicated that, if hired, she would be interested in being a full-time worker.

If the office hires another part-time person in January, Nieuwenhuis said the county would stay within its budget for the 2019-20 fiscal year. The starting wage for the position would be $25.50 an hour but would increase to $26 an hour after three months.

Bootsma also asked where the new employee would work, noting the public health office is already short on space.

Nieuwenhuis said the new employee would use the desk in Nieuwenhuis’ office on days when Pick is not working, since Pick does not take the computer home on her days off.

On days when the new employee’s work schedule would overlap with Pick’s, Nieuwenhuis said one of them could use environmental health specialist Jonathon Hintz’s desk since Hintz is seldom in the office.

“He doesn’t care if we use his desk, and so on the days that Raquel is here also, she just uses his.”