SRHD Board Decision
With nearly 2000 others last evening I watched the twelve members of the Spokane Regional Board of Health struggle to understand and cope with a contest of personalities and power between their two most prominent and high value employees, the District Health Officer, Dr. Bob Lutz snd Amelia Clark, the District's Health Administrator. The meeting lasted 4 hours and 23 minutes. You can watch it here. That youtube video, at the time I write this the next morning, has accumulated nearly 10,000 clicks.
In the end, the Board voted eight to four to terminate Dr. Lutz' employment with the District. I need time to organize my thoughts on what I saw. So, until later, I want to comment on the final outcome:
After the vote to terminate Dr. Lutz employment, the exhausted Board was presented with a motion by Al French, Spokane County Commission, for the interim appointment of Dr. Francisco Velazquez to fill Dr. Lutz position. The motion seemed to take the other Board members by surprise, although I can imagine a certain sense of relief that someone (French) had found an interim replacement for Dr. Lutz.
Breean Beggs offered a motion (which was seconded and passed) to amend French's motion. The amendment was to revisit the interim appointment of Dr. Velaquez at the regular December SRHD Board meeting. (However, I am reminded of the old saw that possession is nine-tenths of the law.)
Without commenting much on the meeting itself I have to wonder where this leaves us. Twice in fifteen years the SRHD has fired a highly qualified District Health Officer. (Dr. Kim Thorburn was fired in 2006.) It seems likely that it will be far harder to find a qualified replacement for Dr. Lutz than it would have been to find a new administrator. Who would want this job? That brings me to:
Dr. Francisco Velasquez, the man elevated by French's motion, has no training in epidemiology that I can find. At least in 2016, Dr Velasquez was President and CEO of Pathology Associates Medical Laboratories, a pathologist working as an administrator, a business person skilled in corporate medicine, not a practicing physician interacting with patients.
Dr. Velasquez may be extremely community-minded, a great physician and leader who is willing, as a civic duty, to step up and take on the mantle of Health Officer in the middle of a contentious pandemic, but his last minute elevation to that contentious position through a motion to an exhausted Board by Commissioner Al French raises many questions. The appointment begs for comparison to the national scene where Dr. Scott Atlas, a neuro-radiologist with no background in epidemiology was elevated in the Trump administration as a prime advisor on the management of the Covid pandemic.
Dr. Velasquez will bear watching.
Keep to the high ground,