Each month the Community Health Foundation selects one recipient from a group of nominees to recognize for their amazing contributions to healthcare in our community. This month the Foundation couldn’t select just one professional, instead we selected a whole team – the absolutely amazing medical staff at the Kay County Health Department. This rockstar team of seven registered nurses have been working overtime in our community since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In early 2020 and until recently, this team was tasked not only with their normal responsibilities at the Health Department, but also with providing COVID-19 contact tracing for our county. The health department would be notified of a positive COVID test result and the nurses would then contact that patient and work with them to identify people with whom they were in contact. They would then have to contact all of those individuals to notify them that they were exposed to COVID and would need to quarantine. This was a very time consuming and laborintensive process that involved answering lots of questions and many, many hours on the telephone. As their role in the pandemic has changed within the last several months, the Health Department has hired part time staff who now only provide contact tracing for high-risk situations in our county like positive test results at places like daycares and schools. All other contact tracing for COVID-19 is done through the State Health Department.
The Health Department nurses’ primary role now is to staff vaccine pods throughout Kay County. The nurses work long hours Tuesday through Thursday every week giving the Moderna or Pfizer COVID vaccines and some weeks have additional vaccine pods at the health department. At an average vaccine pod, they vaccinate 450 to 500 people. The nursing staff has done an amazing job setting up the Kay County vaccine pods to run efficiently and to move patients through quickly and without long lines.
In pre-pandemic times, this amazing group of health department nurses were equally amazing in providing so many vital services to our community. One nurse on staff is dedicated full time to tuberculosis diagnosis, treatment, and follow-up. She works with the Newkirk Family Health Center to get x-rays for patients with TB, gets medical orders from a physician in OKC and communicates the treatment plans and provides education to the patient with TB. She even does home visits for highrisk patients with active TB. Other services the nursing staff at the Kay County Health Department provide include STD testing and treatment, family planning, immunizations, tracing and follow up of communicable diseases (like salmonella, Ecoli, syphilis, Rubiolla, and thyphoid fever), serving as a child development resource (including guidance and testing for ADHD and behavioral issues), and restaurant sanitation inspection.
Amy Wehunt, the coordinating nurse at Kay County Health Department, is extremely complementary of everyone who is part of the Health Department team. She explains that the medical staff and all employees at the health department have been working harder than ever over the past year to serve our community well. Amy says that the “biggest misconception about the health department is that they serve only families with low income or no insurance. Many people in the community utilize the health department for a wide variety of reasons.” The Kay County Health Department is a vital resource and huge contributor to public health during the COVID pandemic AND in many ways before the pandemic.
The Community Health Foundation is so thankful for the hard work and dedication the staff at the Health Department exhibits all the time and especially during the pandemic. We appreciate their efforts to educate, provide for, and treat the members of our community! If you see a health department nurse at a vaccine pod or out and about in the community, be sure to tell them thank you for all of their very hard work!
If you are interested in nominating an outstanding healthcare professional in Kay County from any health care specialty, the Community Health Foundation would love to hear about your nominee. A nomination form is available on the Foundation website at chfofpc.org and each monthly winner will be awarded with $100 in Ponca City Chamber Bucks.