I am writing this letter concerning the Health Crisis facing our nation. Over the last few days we have heard on the news about the outbreak of the Swine Flu. Already over 44 cases have been reported in New York City and many states have declared emergencies. In addition there have also has been one death reported in the United States from the outbreak. Also this evening, according to CBS Eyewitness News two people in Vineland, Cumberland County NJ were tested for Swine Flu.
Around 4:00 p.m. this afternoon the World Health Organization elevated the threat level to 5 on a scale of 1-6. According to CNN at least 74 elementary, junior high and high schools have closed across the country due to confirmed or probable cases of swine flu, the Department of Education said Wednesday. In addition 30 schools have closed as a precautionary measure, Department of Education spokesman Massie Ritsch said. Additionally the Federal government is releasing medication to every state in the country.
Gloucester City is right in the middle of the outbreak. Many people who live or work in or around Gloucester City travel to Philadelphia and New York for work. In addition we have cargo ships that dock at Holt’s Terminal. Some of those ships may be from Mexico where the outbreak originally started.
From 2007 to January of this year I served as a member of the Gloucester City Board of Health. In January I resigned from the board after accepting another appointment in the city. During my time on the board I continued to question the president of the Board of Health about the lack of work the board does. There were many ideas that I brought before the board to better Gloucester City. I did receive some support from two members who came to the board with me in 2007 after being appointed by Mayor James but was constantly told the Board couldn’t do anything by the board’s two senior members, the president and the secretary. I was told that the board is only an advisory board and does not have much power. For two years I continued to question the president on why the board never advised on any health issues and why we didn’t run any programs other than a blood drive and a rabies clinic.
In my view government is meant to serve the needs of the people. Today I contacted the municipal building to speak to a member of the Board of Health and find out if the Board of Health was going to release a statement advising residents about the Swine Flu but I was told to call the Housing Department by Paul Kain because Roseann Michel who serves on the Board of Health and takes all public questions was out of the office.
My purpose for writing this letter is to ask whether or not the Gloucester City Board of Health is going to release any information that could be of use to the residents of Gloucester City about the worst public health crisis facing our nation since the 1970’s. The board in my opinion has had plenty of time to call a special meeting to discuss this matter but they have not. In the past I have called upon the president of the Board of Health to resign. In my opinion President Eleanor Kain is out of touch with the needs of the community and is not effective at leading the board. I have stated at board meetings during the public portion of the meeting that I appreciate her years of service but that it was my opinion the board needed new leadership. I urge her as President of the Gloucester City Board of Health to call a special meeting to discuss the Swine Flu outbreak that is facing more and more communities’ across our nation and inform residents about how to prevent Swine Flu and what services are available to them by the County Department of Health.
For some information on Swine Flu visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website at http://www.cdc.gov/swineflu/. In addition The New Jersey Department of Health has set up a toll free hotline number to answer any questions and concerns. There number is 856-321-9571.
John P. Schmidt,
Former Gloucester City Board of Health Member