‘I’m here for the long haul’: Spokane County Board of Health hires Dr Francisco Velázquez as health worker
The Spokane Regional Health District Board of Directors decided on Wednesday to keep Dr Francisco Velázquez as the county’s permanent health worker.
Velázquez had served as the interim health worker since November.
He took over the job after district health administrator Amelia Clark and then the board of health fired health worker Dr Bob Lutz. Lutz had led the region’s COVID-19 response and had been a health worker since 2017.
The Board of Health unanimously approved the hiring of Velázquez.
“From a personal point of view, being able to contribute to the community in an area where I have useful skills, in a very important job for the community, is an honor and a pleasure,” said Velázquez. “Not all of our activities have the same impact on the community. “
Velázquez will earn $ 247,309 per year as a health worker. According to the minutes of a 2017 Board of Health meeting, Lutz’s starting salary was $ 83.48 per hour. If Lutz worked 40 hours a week, he might have made around $ 173,600 a year when he started.
Before announcing its decision on Wednesday, the Board of Health had kept its hiring process a secret, refusing to release the names of the two candidates who qualified – and were interviewed – for the job.
“It is SRHD’s policy, and an HR industry standard, not to disclose the names of candidates other than members of the immediate interview team,” the district spokesperson said. sanitary, Kelli Hawkins, in an email.
The Board of Health has disclosed the names of candidates in the past.
For example, in 2009, the Board of Health hired Dr Joel McCullough as a health worker after announcing that he and Dr Rachel Herlihy were the two finalists. It is common for public councils or local government leaders to announce finalists for important positions and even to interview candidates at public meetings.
Mary Kuney, chairman of the Board of Health and commissioner for Spokane County, said it was not unusual to withhold the names of candidates from the public. She noted that she and the other county commissioners had not disclosed the names of the candidates this winter when hiring a new CEO.
Breean Beggs, a member of the Board of Health and chairman of the Spokane City Council, said he disagreed with the decision to withhold the names of the candidates.
“I had no problem allowing the public to be more involved,” he said.
Beggs said he did not know the names of the health administration candidates and learned that Velázquez was one before the executive session just before the public health council meeting. Only the council’s executive committee knew who the candidates were before Wednesday.
“It seems it would be important for board members to have the opportunity to meet with the candidates,” Beggs said.
Although he wants the hiring process to be more transparent, Beggs said he believes Velázquez will be a good health worker.
“I’m mainly going to assess Dr Velázquez from the last year of work he’s done, and it looks like he’s done a good job as a public health official,” Beggs said, noting that Velázquez is particularly good at explaining science and medicine to the public. “He seemed to have the right demeanor that we need right now. “
The Board of Health did not have many options to choose from when choosing a health worker. Despite hiring a company to do a national search, there were only eight applicants. Clark, the health district administrator, determined that two of the eight were qualified for the position. The executive committee of the board then interviewed the two candidates on Friday.
Beggs said he believes the health district may have seen fewer applicants due to Lutz’s much-publicized and criticized dismissal last year.
Velázquez has extensive experience in healthcare. He said his diverse background made him a good candidate for a health worker.
“I think I have a pretty broad background which is actually quite useful,” he said.
Velázquez holds a master’s degree in healthcare management from Harvard University, as well as degrees from the Universidad de Puerto Rico and the Universidad del Central del Caribe School of Medicine.
Before coming to the health district, Velázquez had a wide range of jobs in the health care industry. He started out as a pathologist, is a licensed physician in Washington State, and has recently held executive positions in large healthcare companies.
From 2012 to 2017, he was President and CEO of Pathology Associates Medical Laboratory (PAML) at Spokane, a company that generated about $ 300 million per year, employed 1,600 people, and tested medical samples collected in eight states.
Health workers who do not hold a master’s degree in public health can serve provisionally up to three years, but must receive special training from the Washington State Department of Health in order to serve beyond that. three-year period.
Velázquez said he will do this training. He also said that several Washington County health workers did not have master’s degrees in public health and noted that 50 to 60 percent of the courses he took while earning his master’s degree in healthcare management were the same as master’s students in public health followed.
Velázquez said he plans to be a health worker for a long time.
In addition to helping the county respond to the pandemic, he said the health district will need to focus on a host of issues in the coming years, especially mental health, substance abuse, food insecurity and unequal access to health care between neighborhoods.
“I’m here for the long haul,” he said. “We have a lot of work to do.”