Nicole Keim appointed as health officer
A new Nemaha County health officer and advisor have been appointed, temporarily, by the Nemaha County Commissioners.
During their regular meeting at 9 a.m. Monday, Aug. 30, commissioners Gary Scoby, Dylan Keim and Jason Koch appointed Nicole “Nikki” Keim as the new local health officer for Nemaha County, and Irving A. Cohen, MD, MPH, FACPM, DFASAM as the medical advisor for N. Keim. Commissioner Keim abstained from voting on the motion appointing N. Keim for the local health officer position.
This decision comes after Jane Sunderland resigned her position – which included the position of the local health officer – from Nemaha County Community Health Services (NCCHS) effective Tuesday, Aug. 31.
Along with Sunderland’s resignation, NCCHS pulled their contract with Nemaha County, which included NCCHS providing someone to fill the role of the local health officer. Therefore, the responsibility of public health falls back to Nemaha County. A new contract – minus the local health officer position – has been presented to Nemaha County for approval. N. Keim started as the local health officer on Wednesday, Sept. 1.
While the majority of the discussion occurred Monday, Aug. 30, the commissioners met again in special session Tuesday, Aug. 31, to provide clarity on health officer position.
Discussion: August 30
Nemaha County Attorney Brad Lippert opened the conversation saying that as of 12 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 1, Nemaha County would be without a health officer unless a new one was appointed by the commissioners.
Commissioner Keim said he had reached out to a “couple” of individuals but had yet to hear back on, but he did have one person who said they would take the position, temporarily.
“I do know that we have one person committed as of Sept. 1 for a very short term position and would require office staff, that is if we have trouble finding a full-time person. It is purely temporary. That individual would be my wife [N. Keim],” Commissioner Keim said. “She has worked at the health department with Jane [Sunderland] for many years. She is an RN [Registered Nurse]. She has worked at Stormont Vail and Hiawatha Hospital. She has done the communicable disease side of it, so she said she would step up and it’s very temporary. She said 30 days to help get us started. That is something she said would do in interim to help the community out.”
Lippert then said that if the person appointed by Nemaha County is not licensed to practice medicine, surgery or dentistry, the County would still need to appoint an individual “like that to serve as a consultant to direct the administrator on program and related medical and professional matters.”
Commissioner Keim said he had reached out to a doctor who has shown interest in filling that role.
“His name is Irving A Coehn, MD, MPH, FACPM, DFASAM,” Commissioner Keim said. “He was chief resident at John Hopkins Hospital. He has done things. He has wrote many books. He has a masters in public health and preventative health. I think this gentleman is very qualified for the position. He is a retired doctor from Topeka.”
The commissioners and Lippert discussed other options on how to fill the position of Nemaha County health officer, which is now a position that will be ran by Nemaha County.
Lippert mentioned that Martin Mishler – president of NCCHS – said they had contacted doctors in Nemaha County to see if they would be willing to serve as the local health officer on a very temporary basis. Lippert said Mishler stated that no one was interested.
“So, if Nikki [Keim] is in fact willing to step in an interim basis for 30 days, appoint her there and continue looking,” Commissioner Scoby said. “There is nothing that says we can’t advertise for the position.”
“It will buy us more time than just two weeks,” Commissioner Keim said.
“The odd part is that it is the wife of a commissioner,” Lippert said. “But it sounds like she is very qualified for the position being an RN having worked under Jane and the agency, performing these very same services. That will buy us some time to find someone on a more permanent basis.”
“But Brad [Lippert], where the health officer works in conjunction with the board of health, is that any kind of issue?” said Mary Kay Schultejans, Nemaha County Clerk.
“I don’t see a real conflict of interest,” Lippert said. “She is required to come to the county commissioners before exercising or mandating any sort of action. My suggestion would be that you [Commissioner Keim] abstain from voting on any of that.”
Commissioner Koch asked about any obtaining any documents pertaining to the job of the local health officer.
Lippert said according to Kansas Statute 65-202, Sunderland would turn over all documents pertaining to the local health officers duties to the person appointed for the health officer role.
The commissioners and Lippert discussed the possibility of using an office space in the NCCHS building in Seneca, as well as the amount to be contracted for the health officer position.
After a lengthy discussion about money, Commissioner Scoby moved to approve appointing N. Keim to serve as the Nemaha County Local Health Officer at a contract rate of $7,000 per month, with the understanding that she will contract with any additional staff needed. Commissioner Koch seconded the motion. The motion carried with Commissioners Scoby and Koch voting aye. Commissioner Keim abstained from the vote.
The commissioners discussed appointing Irving A. Cohen, MD, MPH, FACPM, DFASAM consult with N. Keim.
After discussion, commissioner Keim moved to approve appointing Irving A. Cohen, MD, MPH, FACPM, DFASAM to consult with the local health officer at a contract rate of $1,000 per month. Koch seconded the motion. The motion carried with all voting aye.
Discussion: Aug. 31
At 3 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 31, the commissioners met in special session to further discuss the position of the local health officer.
The commissioners provided clarification that the appointment of N. Keim as the Local Health Officer for Nemaha County would be as contract labor on a temporary basis. N. Keim explained that she would like to help get things set up for the permanent local health officer as a public service to the county.
In addition to discussing the training that N. Keim would need to receive, the commissioners discussed setting up a new telephone line and other equipment needed at the NCCHS office in Seneca for the health officer’s use.
The commissioners also discussed the hourly contract rate that would be paid to N. Keim as the Nemaha County Local Health Officer. Commissioner Scoby moved to compensate N. Keim at a rate of $30 per hour to be paid out of the $7,000 that was approved the day prior. Commissioner Koch seconded the motion. The motion carried with Commissioners Scoby and Koch voting aye. Commissioner Keim abstained from the vote.
Once a permanent local health officer is hired, that person will become an employee of Nemaha County.
The permanent local health officer position is being advertised in various places. See the ad on Page 10 of this week’s Herald.
Currently, N. Keim can be reached by email at [email protected].com.
See full minutes from both meetings on Page 6 of this week’s Herald or access the video of the meetings at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC_bSG7HuoB2O7xlpjoRJpCA.