, Salem, MA


March 25, 2013

Letter: Council should return Salem health board to three members


Our request is simple. It is consistent with our history. It is common sense. We want to repeal the 1972 act that allowed for an expansion of the board of health to accommodate the long-term-care hospital and to return to the original Mass. General Laws, Chapter 111, Section 26, which established a three-member board. The current seven-member board is more than double the size that is mandated in the state law. In fact, our board is larger than the six-member department that we oversee now that the city does not manage a large long-term-care facility and its many employees. The current oversized board creates an overly burdensome and less productive process; in this case, “more is less.” There was a reason the state mandated that boards of health would be three members; efficiency and effectiveness were certainly high on that list.

There apparently remains some underlying suspicion on the part of some members of the City Council that our request to revert to the original three-member board is politically motivated. Please be assured that this is certainly not the case. This appeal comes directly from the board, not the mayor. In fact, since the mayor appoints the board, would it not actually be in her favor to have more appointees?

Unlike other city committees, the Board of Health is autonomous and nonpolitical. Given our professional public health backgrounds, our mission is to act in the best interest of the well-being of the community. We are undeniably dedicated in our service as volunteers to promote, prevent and protect the overall health of our community.

As evidenced by the thoroughness of this document and our own needs assessment, we have given this request careful thought and consideration. We trust that you will honor our unanimous resolution to repeal the 1972 amendment to expand the Board of Health and return us to the original rules that are consistent with state law and other communities.

We appreciate your support. Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate in reaching out to us.

Dr. Barbara A. Poremba, EdD, MPH, MSN, CNE, ANP-BC

Chairperson, Salem Board of Health

Martin Fair, CHO

Gayle Sullivan, MSN, RNBS

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