More Health Department Concerns

Carol Hannenberg, M.D.–Wellesley Townsman, March 10, 2016

“A town manager without public health knowledge and expertise and with many other competing priorities should not be managing and supervising the Health Department.

It seems best to leave the public health to those who are trained to protect it.”

I believe that it is essential to safeguard the independence of the Board of Health. At present, the Health Department is overseen and managed by an independent, elected Board of Health, which has the authority to hire, manage, supervise, and retain or fire its department head. The proposed Special Act will remove this authority and transfer it to a town manager, requiring only consultation with the board.

The Special Act provisions are said to preserve the independence and priority-setting functions of the Board of Health, but how true independence is to be had when someone other than a board can hire, manage, supervise, evaluate and fire its director?

In an ideal world, there would be no conflicts between town officials and any board or committee, but, unfortunately, we do not yet live in such a world. Many critics of the Board of Health’s position have dismissed our concerns. We have been told that such conflicts would never happen in Wellesley, and that town officials and elected board would always cooperate. Occurrences in nearby communities, however, and in other locations in the U.S. have demonstrated what may happen where there are conflicts between public health priorities and other economic or political considerations.

A town manager without public health knowledge and expertise and with many other competing priorities should not be managing and supervising the Health Department.

It seems best to leave the public health to those who are trained to protect it. I urge Wellesley voters to vote No on the Special Act on March 15.

Carol Hannenberg, M.D., Washburn Avenue

Associate Member, Board of Health