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Question raised over death certificates, burial permits

October 11, 2012
Morning Journal News

SALEM - The city health board made more moves for a new part-time vital statistics registrar and to create a part-time deputy registrar position, but one local funeral home director questioned if anyone will be in place by the end of the month.

Longtime registrar Candice Pierson is retiring Oct. 31 and the person who serves as deputy registrar, the city health department's nurse, will be on medical leave for an unspecified amount of time after Oct. 19.

Russell Loudon, owner of Stark Memorial, who also serves on the city health board, raised the question at the end of a special meeting Wednesday regarding the two registrar positions, the nurse and hours of operation. His concern dealt with the issuance of death certificates and burial permits.

"We're trying to put the registrar in place as soon as possible," board Chairman Mayor John Berlin said after the meeting.

The part-time registrar position is being advertised, with resumes due at the city health department by Oct. 20. The successful applicant will be required to become a notary public if they aren't one already and undergo state training and certification as a vital statistics registrar.

One board member questioned whether funeral home directors could go to the Columbiana County Health Department in the interim.

A funeral home director from Salem would not be able to just go to the Columbiana County Health Department to file a death certificate or request a burial permit, according to county Health Commissioner Wes Vins.

When contacted by phone Wednesday afternoon, Vins said new birth records, death certificates, burial permits and other original paperwork created by a registrar must be filed in the registrar district where the birth or death occurred. County personnel previously served in a backup position for the city health district and could issue the paperwork at the city office, but they recently pulled back on that agreement due to a lack of staff availability.

"If we were in a position to help we certainly would," Vins said. "I just don't have the extra staff right now."

Tess Pollock, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Health, said that by law, each vital statistics registrar is required to have a deputy registrar in place to perform their duties, but if for some reason the deputy registrar isn't able, there is another option so services continue.

The ODH can transfer the power of that district's registrar to another health district, if necessary, on a temporary basis, she said.

Berlin said they should know more about where they stand by the next regular meeting, set for 10 a.m. Oct. 24.

The board reviewed the language for job descriptions for the two registrar positions, agreed to them and to request city council to create the deputy registrar position, which by law falls to the registrar to appoint with the approval of the director of health.

After much discussion, board members also agreed that the registrar and deputy registrar should hold public notary certification, giving applicants 45 days from the date of hire to secure that.

Part of the reason they wanted to create two part-time positions was to improve coverage, but the health department will also save money since they won't be required to provide health coverage or other fringe benefits. Salaries set by the board were $12 for the registrar and $11.50 for the deputy registrar.

The board agreed to change the health department's hours once the two positions are in place and once they've changed all their health department signage, the web site and documents to reflect the new hours of operation. Board member Judy Sicilia said moving to the new hours by the first of the year would be ideal. Plans call for the hours to change to 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., but open for lunch.

The current hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and closed one hour for lunch.

For the nurse situation, the board agreed to ask council to create a temporary or fill-in nurse position for the future to help with coverage when the nurse isn't available, at a rate of $17.75 per hour.

For now, board members asked city Health Commissioner Richard Setty to check on other avenues to cover the nursing responsibilities while the nurse is out on medical leave. Sicilia said they don't want to lose all those children who come to the health department for immunizations.

"I think there's some avenues to explore," she said.

Some of the options discussed included asking Salem Community Hospital for help, the Visiting Nurse Association or even instructors from Hannah Mullins School of Practical Nursing, which is in the same building as the health department.



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