Prevey argued the Board of Health has created its own quorum problem.
“This entire procedure was done backwards,” Prevey said. “It seems they’ve created the situation. ... They’re backing us up against a wall.”
In November, the Board of Health petitioned the City Council to decrease the health board’s size from seven to five members and change the department head’s title from health agent to health director. Although a council subcommittee voted to recommend the changes, the full City Council voted against both initiatives.
The Board of Health still had five members in November. Since then, two members have stepped down.
A 1912 state law established local boards of health at three members. Salem’s board was enlarged in the 1970s to manage a city-owned hospital.
The city gave up control of that hospital — the former Shaughnessy-Kaplan Rehabilitation Hospital, now Spaulding Hospital for Continuing Medical Care North Shore — decades ago. Now the Board of Health supports repealing the 1972 amendment to state law that allowed the board to go to seven members.
Such a change would require a vote of the City Council and passage of a home rule petition by the state Legislature.
Bethany Bray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SalemNewsBB.