Why public health is in crisis: threats, departures, new laws

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Many, especially in conservative circles, have increasingly embraced individual rights over collective responsibilities, a trend that Dr. Rosner says undermines the notion of a social contract in which people work together to achieve a greater good.

“It’s a depressing time,” he said. “What makes a society if you can’t even come together to keep your people healthy?” “

During the pandemic, the federal government made tens of billions of dollars available to bolster testing, contact tracing and vaccinations.

In May, the Biden administration announced it would invest an additional $ 7.4 billion from the Covid-19 stimulus package to train and recruit public health workers.

But while health officials have described the money as essential to help them build teams quickly after years of budget cuts, many of those new hires were temporary workers and much of the spending went to urgent needs such as tests and vaccinations. New funding is often funneled through state or grant programs with conditions, such as a short time frame to spend money or time-consuming requirements for state or county approvals. Some departments have said they have had to lay off employees at inconvenient times over the past year because grants were strapped for cash.

And the funding is not permanent. Many local health officials have said they expect the extra money to run out over the next two to three years. They compared the Covid-19 funds to the money that poured into health services after the 9/11 attacks, but then disappeared when political priorities shifted.

Dozens of departments have said that in order to prepare for further outbreaks or a future pandemic, they really need a higher baseline of qualified permanent employees. Instead, they bought equipment or, more frequently, hired temporary staff, knowing they would have to let them go when the money ran out.

A Berrien County, Michigan health official said it was taking so long to get county approval to hire temporary staff in the fall of 2020 that when his department received more funding later, she instead focused on faster purchases, like software. When the virus spread, she had to remove existing employees from their regular jobs.


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