FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) -- Indiana health officials are speaking out against a piece of legislation that could alter the public health decision-making process.
Senate Bill 5 aims to take power away from county health officers and put some decisions into the hands of elected officials.
This stems from the different county responses to the coronavirus pandemic.
Republican State Senator Liz Brown said that was a problem.
“Some county health commissioners who may have been overly cautious and didn’t have the information they needed, or maybe didn’t have the skills they needed, were more draconian in their responses,” she said.
Brown co-authored the bill and said it doesn’t completely strip officials of their authority.
“It says we’re gonna have a little bit of an appeals process here so we can sort of put a pause and have someone else do a check and balance,” she said.
Officials strongly spoke out against the bill at an Indiana Public Health Association conference call today.
They say politicians aren’t the best people to be making public health decisions.
“[They] lack the expertise needed to properly engage in unusually complex public health subjects,” Tippecanoe County Health Officer Dr. Jeremy Adler said.
The bill encompasses all public health matters.
“These elected officials would now be responsible for restaurants experiencing outbreaks of E. coli, norovirus and Hepatitis A,” Adler said.
If there’s an appeal, the infected restaurant could stay open.
“That should be an immediate close and there shouldn’t be any rebuttal from the legislature for it,” DeKalb County Health Officer Dr. Mark Souder said.
Brown says she wants to see more consistency.
But health officials say all counties are different, and they make the best decisions for their communities.
“The responsibility should be left with the health department and the health officer to make critical decisions about public health,” Souder said.