Plus, a letter from an epidemiologist on Friday's chaos & a new petition demanding transparency.
Happy halloween, y’all. A few quick developments in the Spokane Regional Health coup. There are a couple action items at the bottom so make sure to read the whole thing.
If this is the first you’re hearing about this, catch up with yesterday’s post Dr Lutz asked to resign.
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Like they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant. Let’s shine some light on this thing. Alright, on to the post:
Lutz Fights Back
In a brief statement released to media, Dr. Bob Lutz says he has retained counsel and is going to fight to keep his job. Here’s the statement in full:
“In light of the recent events surrounding my employment with the Spokane Regional Health District, I have hired attorney Bryce Wilcox from Lee & Hayes. To be clear, I have not resigned. I maintain a strong desire to continue working to promote the health and safety of the citizens of Spokane County and this region. The manner, timing, and motivation underlying the request I resign is troubling, and I have hired Mr. Wilcox to assist me in pursuing all available legal remedies should the SRHD’s Board decide to terminate my employment. Like everyone else, I am now in limbo and am awaiting word from the Board regarding my status. Further information will be forthcoming after I hear from the Board.”
A Letter from an Epidemiologist
Yesterday afternoon, Anna Halloran, an epidemiologist and 13-year employee of the health district sent a letter to Amelia Clark and the board.
I was moved by it and, when I asked her if she would mind me running the letter, she responded in a way that, to be honest, kinda broke my heart:
“I absolutely worry I will lose my colleagues. These are experienced public health professionals with integrity and passion and aren’t going to stand for this,” she said, “Please know my colleagues are just as shocked and angry. Please give us a voice.”
Here’s the letter in full:
To Amelia Clark and the SRHD Board of Health:
I am absolutely shocked, appalled, dismayed, angry and hurt to learn that you have fired Dr. Lutz.
I have been a proud, loyal employee of this agency for 13 years. I have served as an epidemiologist for the past six of those years, and along with my incredible colleagues, have worked tirelessly fighting this pandemic seven days a week since January. It has been, by far, the worst and most stressful experience of my life. None of you have any idea of the demands and pressures we’ve been under. You have no idea what is asked of us on an hourly basis and the types of decisions we constantly have to make that greatly impact people’s lives. You have no idea what it feels like to be despised by the very public you’ve given your all to protect. You have no idea what this response has done to us personally and to our families because none of you have spoken with us. None of you have checked in to ask how your workforce at the heart of the response is coping. I have not even seen Amelia’s face nor has she spoken to our epidemiology staff since May.
As the only person in this agency under more pressure than our epidemiology unit, Dr. Lutz understood. He has led us tirelessly and graciously through these extremely dark months. He was always available, anytime, day or night. He always provided an answer when we needed help. He asked our opinions. He checked in on us daily and made us laugh. But above all, he was steadfast in his leadership around what needs to be done to protect our community. The fact that you would remove him during a pandemic greatly affecting our community is irresponsible and negligent. The risk that you’ve exposed not only our community to, but your public health workforce to as well, will ripple with irrevocable and serious consequences.
I’m sure you will tell us that there are reasons and your decision is justified. None of those will be good enough. Dr. Lutz selflessly gave his all to lead us through the worst crisis our agency has ever seen and he is a beacon of reason and hope for all of us.
You don’t know me, but I have been a good and devoted employee. SRHD was my home and I was so proud to work for this agency. I don’t feel that way anymore. And if you think that epidemiology can function in the time of COVID without a health officer, particularly one of Dr. Lutz’s character, you are gravely mistaken. If there is a vote of the board on this matter, I implore you to make it open to the public. This is a huge mistake that will be detrimental to our entire community, and the public’s voices should be heard. You cannot make these decisions in a vacuum, particularly when you are only fed one side of the story.
Anna Halloran, MHPA | Epidemiologist
PROTEST | Tomorrow at 3pm there will be a rally at the Regional Health District offices on 1101 W. College Ave (the R2D2-looking building).
PETITION | Spectrum Center, an organization supporting the LGBTQIA2S+ community released a petition that reads, in part:
… Dr. Lutz has provided critical leadership during a challenging public health crisis. While listening and responding to divergent opinions with respect, Dr. Lutz has addressed the COVID-19 crisis with a level head and consistent leadership decisions rooted in science and fact-based information. His advocacy for the health and well-being of the Spokane community extends beyond the current pandemic. He has also addressed systemic issues that have serious public health implications. Barring any egregious personal conduct, Dr. Lutz has our full support.