Jones says Osage County deserves better from health department

Robert Smith

District 1 Commissioner Randall Jones said Monday he thinks Osage County residents have a right to expect better health care service from the Oklahoma State Department of Health than they are receiving.

Jones indicated he intended to voice his views in a Tuesday meeting of the county health board, and in separate communication with state health officials. He specifically questioned why health officials have not arranged for Osage County to have the equipment and staffing necessary to offer rapid-turnaround COVID-19 testing, with results available in just 15 minutes. Neighboring Kay County has the type of machine needed for the quick testing, but not Osage County. The Osage Nation also has the quick-turnaround capacity, Jones said.

“We should have that here,” he said.

Jones said Osage County’s sales tax support for public health is a rarity among Oklahoma counties, and Osage County currently has a surplus of some $4 million for public health.

“We don’t see the benefit,” Jones said. “I think the citizens of Osage County, the taxpaying citizens, should get some benefit from that money.”

Jones said he has been a defender of the state health department, but he needs for department officials to understand they are making it hard for him to maintain that stance.

Jones aired his concern about whether state health officials are sufficiently responsive to Osage County in context of ongoing growth in the county’s COVID-19 infection numbers.

As of Monday, Osage County had 367 positive tests for COVID-19 since the illness began to appear here in late March; 311 of those persons had recovered, according to the state department of health, and 11 had died, leaving 45 active cases. There had been 325 positive test results and 10 deaths as of July 27.

On July 27, District 3 Commissioner Darren McKinney said two of his Fairfax road shop employees were off work because of possible exposure to COVID-19. He was able to report Monday that both men were back at work, and both tested negative for COVID-19.

Jones, however, shared that a county courthouse employee and a District 1 road employee had tested positive for COVID-19, and each of those persons had spent enough time around another employee to warrant concern about those individuals.

McKinney on Monday encouraged the wearing of masks to try to contain the spread of COVID-19.

“If you want to wear a mask, you’re more than welcome to wear it,” he told an audience of county officials and employees.

County Treasurer Sally Hulse asked the commissioners if her office could make use of one of the fogger machines that county government purchased to spread disinfectant in county buildings. Jones encouraged her to do so.

In addition to ongoing concerns about responding adequately to COVID-19, county commissioners agreed Monday to replace the more than 60 smoke detectors located in the county courthouse. The detectors were installed in the spring of 1999 and are now giving false signals, officials said. Jones said about 20 detectors at a time will be replaced, and the overall cost will be between $10,000 and $14,000.