YOUNGSTOWN City and county discuss health issues

The two health district boards had their first-ever joint meeting Monday.
YOUNGSTOWN -- The city of Youngstown and Mahoning County health district boards have agreed to sponsor at least one joint flu vaccine clinic later this year.
The two boards also agreed to create a joint ethics committee to address short-term and long-term situations that impact the public's health.
The decisions were made Monday at a meeting at the Oakhill Renaissance Center (the former Forum Health Southside Medical Center). The city health district has its offices in the center.
The Mahoning County District Board of Health oversees the public health safety for all county residents, excluding Youngstown and the city of Struthers, which have their own health boards.
Brian Corbin, president pro-tem for the city health board, said he believed the meeting was the first time the county and city's health boards have met to discuss common health-related issues.
Preparing vaccines
The initial joint venture will involve a flu vaccine clinic. The boards will work on the logistics of where the clinic will be and when.
Joseph Diorio, the county health board's director of lead-poisoning prevention, said the clinics the city and county health boards had last year "gave us a good idea of how many people to vaccinate and the various dispensing points" for the shots.
Matthew Stefanak, county health board commissioner, said he thought at least one clinic could be done around October.
Dr. Larry Frisch, county health district medical director, said there will probably be a little more flu vaccine this year than last, but it was still too early to tell about how much will be available for the 2005-06 flu season.
Coping with shortage
There was a shortage of the vaccine last year throughout the country, partially caused by the loss of flu vaccine made by Chiron Corp., a California company that makes flu vaccine in England. British regulators stopped the company from making the vaccine.
The company was to produce between 46 million and 48 million doses of influenza vaccine for the United States. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services had to pursue contingencies for the supply loss.
The shortage, in some cases, led to rationing and giving the limited amount of vaccine to high-priority providers, including hospitals, long-term care facilities, nursing homes and private providers who care for young children.
Neil Altman, city health board commissioner, said he was at odds with the state health director because of Altman's decision to give the flu vaccine to everyone who wanted a shot.
Wayna Hightower, city health board nursing director, said the city had vaccine left over from last year despite giving flu shots to everyone that wanted one.
Creating a committee
Leonard Perry and Donald Somers from the county health board said a joint ethics committee, made up of representatives from the two boards and the Struthers health board, could be instrumental in helping resolve critical public health decisions.
"If we have a joint board or committee, it would help us to make our case to the state health director, and we don't put one person in the crosshairs," Somers said.
The ethics committee would look at short- and long-term public health issues and arrive at strategies the boards could consider implementing.
The boards agreed to appoint Dr. Stephanie Dewar and Michael Feher from the county health board and Sarah V. Lown and Dr. Doug Lewis from the city health board to the ethics committee.
A representative from the Struthers health board also will be added.

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