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Health Department receives grant for protective equipment
new deh county commission protective gear pic
Pam Stiles, left, and Pam Winkelman, right, both of the Barton County Health Department, demonstrate to the County Commission Monday morning new protective gear purchased for use in case of disease outbreaks.

 In other business Monday morning, the County Commission: 

• Approved an abatement of taxes and special assessments for the City of Hoisington. County Treasurer Kevin Wondra processed an abatement of $80.90 in taxes plus $3,362.50 in special assessments for a total of $3,443.40 for property located at 322 E. 6th St. in Hoisington. Wondra said the abatement, which is allowed by statute, was requested by the City of Hoisington so the property could be transferred to the Hoisington Land Bank. 

Hoisington formed the Land Bank in 2010 as a method of acquiring property from the county tax sale or other means that would be free of all past tax liabilities, Wondra said. The land would then be used to encourage housing development.

• Approved a request from the City of Claflin for assistance with sealing of certain roads. As an independent contractor, the county would receive a maximum of $6,000 for labor and equipment. Claflin City Attorney Bob Suelter developed the contractual agreement for the work, County Administrator Richard Boeckman said. 

This is the ninth year the county has worked with Claflin. The city can’t find a private contractor to handle the job because it too small.

• Approved work to be done on the courthouse chiller. An integral part of the air cooling system at the courthouse is the chiller. It has experienced several mechanical issues as sediment cannot be cleaned out without shutting down and draining the entire system. A Trane representative suggested that a shut off valve be installed so that an inside filter can be cleaned. The cost of the installation is $9,438. 

County Administrator Richard Boeckman said the courthouse’s pipes are “disintegrating due to age” and this is depositing flecks of metal into the pipes. Replacing this filter is key in keeping these metal pieces from winding up in the $200,000 chiller, causing even more damage.

The work will be done in October when the courthouse is switching from air conditioning to heating.

As a side note, Boeckman said the condition of the pipes will be of continued concern, adding they could burst at some point.

 It was a tense situation for Pam Stiles and Pam Winkelman of the Barton County Health Department Monday morning, and it wasn’t even a crisis situation.

The two took turns donning personal protective equipment recently purchased by the department through a grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Putting on the suits is a two-person ordeal, as their demonstration before the County Commission Monday showed.

The State of Kansas offered Local health departments the opportunity to request grants to acquire personal protective equipment and other needed items in the event of an ebola case or another highly infectious disease, Health Director Shelly Schneider said. As a result of that grant, the BCHD received $10,698 the buy several of the suits and related gear.

“There’s a lot that goes into that people don’t realize,” Schneider said. Depending on the severity of the contagion, the outfits range from gowns, booties, gloves and a face shield, to a full body suit with a respirator unit.

In either case, everywhere one part of suit met another was taped. Any, and Schneider emphasized any, bare skin can lead to infection and potential death.

“It’s very hot and very cumbersome,” Schneider said of the garb. The staff has attended training on the proper methods to don the suits and has been practicing.

It still takes a long time for them to get suited up, she said. They may intensify their monthly on-site training.

But, Schneider said, even the most experienced professionals take their time. “You have to be slow and mindful.”

Any mistake can be lethal, she said. The equipment is always put on in the presence of someone else who helps and watches for errors.

Schneider said they now have several of the suits stockpiled. In addition, they have coordinated with other health care providers so that the gear is compatible.

The funds for the grant stem from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks when money was made available to equip health departments to handle emergencies, ranging from disease outbreaks to bio-terrorism.