Health dept. can’t give flu shots

SALEM – The city health department can’t give flu shots or other immunizations until a new drug license is in hand since the required license to administer shots expired Dec. 31 without being renewed.

“I call it administrative oversight,” city Health Commissioner Richard Setty said when asked what happened.

Setty said the application normally is received by mail and it didn’t cross his deck. He didn’t realize the license had not been renewed and neither did the substitute nurse the board hired to work while nurse Kathy Dugan was off for medical leave after an operation. He said the money to pay for the license, $124, was in the budget.

The failure to renew the license wasn’t discovered until Jan. 8 when Dugan returned to work. According to her written report, the substitute nurse gave flu shots in early January with the expired drug license.

When asked if the department would face any problems as a result of giving shots without a valid license in place, Setty said he was not aware of any problems associated with it. He said there would be no late fee as long as they renewed the license this month.

In her report, Dugan said the drug license expired Dec. 31 and was due in November and was not renewed. She wrote that she contacted the Ohio State Pharmacy Board and received the necessary paperwork from them to complete and the department’s medical director, Dr. George Scott Wilson signed the form. Setty then had to complete the requisition and purchase order and take it to city Auditor Betty Brothers to issue the check.

All items were mailed to the Ohio State Pharmacy Board and the issuance of the license remains pending. Dugan said she can not administer any shots until she has the drug license in hand and Wilson has signed it.

Dugan’s report was part of the agenda for the city health board meeting Tuesday morning, but the fact that the drug license was allowed to lapse wasn’t discussed.

The only mention was when board member Bill Wilkins asked if there was any activity with flu shots. Setty said there wasn’t, pending receipt of the new drug license. He said as soon as the department received the new license, they could resume the flu shots.

Dugan had been off since Oct. 19 and the substitute nurse wasn’t named by the board until Oct. 30. According to Dugan’s activity schedule for the year, total injections or various innoculations dropped off after August from 55 in August to 24 in September. The numbers dropped even more with just six in October, one in November and eight in December. The total for the year was 462.

When asked if anyone had to be turned away for shots, Setty said they had little if any interest for the flu vaccine in the fall, but then all of a sudden they started getting phone calls when news about the flu started spreading. Demand for childhood immunizations also dropped off.

Mayor John Berlin, chairman of the board, asked about the flu vaccine protecting against the flu and board member Judy Sicilia said the vaccine is not a guarantee against getting the flu. She said it can help someone fight the flu more effectively and can prevent complications that are more serious.

“It’s a wise additional preventative measure, along with hand washing,” she said.

In another nursing matter, Setty reported the substitute nurse took another position and won’t be able to work for the health department anymore. Board member Judy Sicilia asked if they could recoup some of the money just paid to cover her liability insurance since she’s not going to be working for the city, with Setty asked to look into the matter.

In other business, Setty reported that the new part-time vital statistics registrar had a death in her family in California and would be off an estimated three weeks, with Dugan stepping in to fulfill the duties of registrar. Dugan had served as the deputy registrar under the previous vital statistics registrar who retired at the end of October.

When asked if Dugan had been appointed by the new registrar, which he said previously would have to be done in order for her to function as a registrar, he said she had signed off on that.

The next meeting is set for 10 a.m. Feb. 27.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at