The ‘tank is empty’ for public health officials

State and local health departments have struggled with too few workers and too little money. They're burnt out, overworked and underpaid.



September 30, 2021 - 10:02 AM

Jennifer Bacani McKenney, a Fredonia physician and Wilson County health officer, testifies Wednesday before the U.S. House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis. Photo by (Screen capture by Kansas Reflector from committee video of hearing)

WASHINGTON — Eighteen months into the COVID-19 pandemic, state and local public health departments that were already struggling with too few workers and too little money have been pushed to the brink — and for some, beyond the brink.

“My staff is burnt out, overworked and underpaid,” Mysheika Roberts, health commissioner with the Columbus Public Health Department in Ohio, told U.S. House members on Wednesday. “Some are leaving the field entirely, unable to contribute any more to the work they once loved.”

“Simply put,” Roberts added, “their tank is empty.”

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