New Health Officer Named for Mendocino County
by William Miller, MD – Chief of Staff at Adventist Health – Mendocino Coast Hospital
Last week, the County Board of Supervisors appointed Andy Coren, MD, as the new Public Health Officer. Dr. Coren is Board Certified in Family and Community Medicine and has been in practice in Ukiah since 1988. He has served on the county’s Public Health Advisory Board. His strengths include strong leadership skills, communication and team building.
I asked Dr. Coren about his plans for dealing with the outbreak at our local nursing home, Sherwood Oaks. He told me that he has been in touch with Dr. John Cottle, the Medical Director of Sherwood Oaks, and that their biggest challenge right now is finding adequate staffing. “They have lost several of their staff due to being out on leave from turning positive or from simply being afraid to come to work,” he said. “We need to work with the State Health Department to give them the support they need to safely staff their facility.”
Sherwood Oaks continues to take isolation measures designed to slow the spread of the virus. A total of 14 residents have tested positive, with 9 becoming ill. Four have been hospitalized here at Adventist Health – Mendocino Coast, of which one has made a full recovery and returned home to Sherwood Oaks. Three remain in our hospital and an additional four residents have died.
Dr. Coren and I also spoke about the need to expand community surveillance testing on the Coast. He agreed that the main challenge is that nationally there simply isn’t adequate availability of tests and that the laboratories that run them are overwhelmed. “This is a problem not just here, but for the entire nation. It is frustrating that some lesser developed countries have done a better job at this with less technology than we have,” he said. “And with some turn around times stretching out to ten or more days, it doesn’t even become an effective tool for contact tracing. The bottom line is that we cannot rely upon our technology to save us. It is the simple things that every person can do that will make the greatest difference. Of course, I am talking about the importance of wearing masks, washing hands and socially distancing ourselves.”
“I am excited about the chance to start work on the Coast,” Dr. Coren adds. “One of my first priorities will be to come out there and make a site visit to Sherwood Oaks, plus see your hospital. I want to meet with community leaders and make sure that the Health Department is taking an active role in what is going on out there.”
Dr. Coren is replacing Dr. Naomi Doohan who has served as the interim Health Officer. She will stay on as a consultant to provide support for Dr. Coren as he takes on this very important role for our county. His expected start date is the end of August.