Katy City Council postpones vote to hire a physician as health authority

By R. Hans Miller | Times Senior Reporter
Posted 4/10/20

In a unanimous vote, the Katy City Council postponed a vote on the hiring of a physician to act as the city’s local health authority during a special Thursday meeting. Currently, without its …

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Katy City Council postpones vote to hire a physician as health authority

Posted

In a unanimous vote, the Katy City Council postponed a vote on the hiring of a physician to act as the city’s local health authority during a special Thursday meeting. Currently, without its own health authority, the city must rely on Harris County’s Dr. Umair Shah as its de facto health authority for the COVID-19 pandemic, city officials said.

The vote to hire a health authority will be on the agenda for this coming Monday's regular Katy City Council meeting.

Relying on Shah as the health authority means that the city is unable to enact its own plans to reflect its custom needs, Mayor Pro Tem Chris Harris said. This means that plans to provide hotel rooms for EMTs and other frontline city employees to quarantine in if they should become infected – just one of the options the city is considering – is not possible because the city must default to actions authorized by the county.

Having a health authority in place also helps the city obtain funding from the federal government for any relief associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The current candidate is Dr. Joe A. Anzaldua who also serves as the health director for the cities of Sugar Land, Stafford and Missouri City has more than a decade of experience in public medicine. He also serves on the Texas Crisis Standards of Care panel under the authority of the Texas Department of State Health Services’ authority. The panel was asked by the department to address the resource management by emergency medical service personnel, hospitals, alternate care systems and other public health and emergency responders during crises.

The vote was postponed in order to allow the city’s law firm, Olson and Olson, LLP. to review and prepare contracts prior to hiring a physician to serve as the city’s health authority. A health authority’s general responsibilities are listed below.

Responsibilities as Local Health Authority

  1. Support county regional health department to establish, maintain, and enforce control measures with respect to communicable or infectious diseases
  2. Ensure the reporting of contagious, infectious, and dangerous epidemic diseases in municipality to the county regional health department
  3. Based on the scope of locally provided environmental health services, support the county regional health department in enforcing state and local public health laws, rules, requirements and ordinances regarding sanitation and control measures
  4. Inform and educate the city including elected officials and the medical community about the importance of reporting contagious and infectious communicable diseases
  5. Engage in health and disaster planning for the city
  6. Work closely and directly with the Office of Emergency Management (or like office), especially in times of natural disasters
  7. Inform the city about any public health concerns or potential threats
  8. Prepare and disseminate public health information regarding outbreaks and public health threats to the city (ie. West Nile Virus, Zika Virus, COVID-19). Prepare and deliver presentations if requested
  9. Respond to questions or concerns about public health issues and/or potential threats from elected city officials, community leaders, and other community stakeholders. Prepare and deliver presentations if needed
  10. Assist and support the county regional health department involving investigations of food -borne and disease outbreaks and responses to natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods, etc.
  11. Educate providers and citizens to promote public health activities such disease surveillance (ie. Influenza epidemics, pandemics)
  12. Assist in the development and promulgation of disease control planning for the city regarding public health emergencies if service requested
  13. Assist in the development and promulgation of hazard mitigation planning for the city, as it relates to public health issues if service requested
  14. Biweekly meeting (teleconference) with Dr. Umair Shah (Harris County), Dr. David Persse (City of Houston), Dr. Jacqueline Mintor-Johnson (Fort Bend County) and other neighboring LHAs.

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