Sunday, April 11, 2021

Health board: Laugh until you cry

| April 4, 2021 1:00 AM

By George, he’s got it!

Today’s letter to the editor from George Wagner casts a satirical spotlight on what should be seen as an obvious — and dangerous — outpoint to all reasonable people. When it comes to our region’s health, who ya gonna call?

The smiles in reading Wagner’s missive quickly melt away, however, when the humor of his observation succumbs to the horror underlying it. The two best medical minds on the Panhandle Health District’s Board of Health are being unceremoniously halved, and possibly eliminated altogether.

Longtime board member Jai Nelson has apparently been badgered and belittled into opting not to try to retain her seat. In the face of the pandemic, Nelson courageously stood up for front line health professionals and vulnerable citizens in all five northern counties, supporting science-based information campaigns and a mask mandate that was viciously attacked — and, subsequently, so was she.

Now, kindred spirit Dr. Richard McLandress is the target. McLandress, the board’s designated physician appointee, has served with distinction since 1985. Yet like Nelson, his pro-mask stance has made him a magnet not just for criticism, but for removal midway through his current four-year term. The would-be executioner looks a lot like county Commissioner Leslie Duncan.

In an open commissioners meeting last week, Duncan suggested doing away with McLandress but would not publicly explain why. The information she’s allegedly privy to is so damning that it can only be brought to light behind the closed doors of an executive session, she intimated. Either that or it’s so flimsy, Duncan knows she’d be laughed out of the room for even suggesting it.

It’s regrettable for all in the health district that Nelson’s reasoned voice will no longer be heard. Further, Duncan owes it to county constituents, not just to Dr. McLandress, to explain her political assassination attempt. To impugn the reputation of so respected a professional requires full public disclosure of what she says she knows. Anything less shows not just a lack of courtesy, but of courage.

The Kootenai County Board of Commissioners has plenty of potential replacements for Nelson — 18 of them — from which to choose. Presumably, one may measure up to her high standards.

And as for Duncan’s desire to deep six the good doctor, Commission Chair Chris Fillios and Commissioner Bill Brooks should cut out George Wagner’s letter to the editor and put it on their colleague's desk. Then they should give Dr. McLandress their full support.