DECATUR, Ga. -- The Georgia Board of Public Health voted unanimously Tuesday to table a proposal to seek accreditation for its operations.
The commissioner of public health also reported that there have been no new cases in two weeks of an outbreak of e. coli that struck five Georgians and sent one to the hospital. The patients were from Coweta, Forsyth and Cherokee counties, and two were from Cobb County. Fourteen cases of the same strain have been identified in the Southeast, including on baby that died from it.
Commissioner Brenda Fitzgerald said her department worked with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but no source has been found.
“We are happy that it was a sporadic outbreak,” she said.
The decision to table accreditation came after a presentation by Dr. Lawton Davis, director of the 10-county health district centered in Dublin, Ga.
“Today, there is little research that accreditation improves public health,” he said.
The cost would range from $12,000 for a small county to $1.8 million for the whole state every five years. On top of that is the staff time and the expense of modifying procedures to conform to the standards of the outside accrediting agency.
Davis argued that the money could be better used targeting another communicable disease or adding a community-planning director to districts like his. Plus, the local county commissioners and state legislators would not be inclined to increase appropriations to health departments just because they got accredited, he said.
“We recognize there is a lot of momentum pushing this particular train down the track,” he said.
But after a brief discussion in which board members expressed their overall desire to improve and standardize procedures in all the local health departments, they voted unanimously to table accreditation for now.
Fitzgerald said afterward she didn’t view the decision as a defeat for her.
“We need to put our money in different places,” she said. “If we had had unlimited money, we would have had a different outcome.”
She said when the department was spun out of another department two years ago as she took over, there was little standardization. Even without an outside group looking over her shoulder, she promised the board to continue implementing statewide protocols.
“We are definitely moving forward with having uniformity on things we think are core,” she told the board.