Public health offers healthcare liaison

The Jefferson County Public Health Department offers a wide variety of services to people of all ages.

One service that director Chris Estle wants the public to know about is the community healthcare liaison. The liaison helps a patient know where to go to get the health services they need, such as after leaving the hospital.

?We at least can connect patients to those in the area who can help them,? she said. ?The liaison is the person you go to when you don?t know where to go.?

Oftentimes, patients will leave the hospital with specific instructions on how to recover, or about the medications they?ll need to take. A liaison is useful in helping them understand their treatment regimen.

?Sometimes, people are taking more medications than they need, or they?re taking multiple medications that interact with each other,? Estle said. ?That can cause an accidental overdose and even an emergency room visit.?

People buy medical devices, like a blood pressure cuff, but don?t know how to use them properly, or how to interpret the information they provide. The healthcare liaison educates them on the use of the device and how to decipher its readings.

The liaison can also connect patients to financial assistance, like whether they?re eligible for a Medicaid waiver. Estle said Ray Chambers, director of the Jefferson County Commission of Veterans Affairs, is a great resource not only for the area?s veterans but also for anyone in need of general relief.

Estle said her office fields many phone calls this time of year from adult children who notice their parents? health deteriorating while visiting them for the holidays. She said a liaison can meet with those people to help them draft a list of questions to ask a physician at their next appointment.

Those interested in having a consultation with a liaison should call the public health office for an appointment at 472-5929. The office is located at 200 W. Briggs Ave. in Fairfield, and is open Monday through Friday 7:30 a.m. to noon, and 1-4 p.m.

Estle wants the public to know that a consultation with a liaison is not a substitute for a physical examination at a doctor?s office. Liaisons are also not allowed to diagnose or treat an illness.


Home care services

In addition to healthcare liaisons, public health offers home care services. Skilled nurses are available to manage medications, monitor a patient?s progress, provide catheter care, injections and other procedures prescribed by a physician. Estle said that, if a patient?s health insurance won?t cover the full cost of the service, they can still receive it, and pay a fee based on their income.


Immunization clinics

Public health offers immunization clinics for children through age 18. The clinics last from 1-4 p.m. every first and third Tuesday of the month. Funding for the program comes from the federal Vaccine for Children Program. Children can continue taking a series of vaccines after they turn 18, but cannot start a new one. To qualify for free immunizations, a child must be under insured or not insured. Donations are accepted for vaccines.

The last measles case in Jefferson County occurred in 2004, and it?s only through widespread vaccinations that it hasn?t returned. Earlier this year, a measles outbreak was reported in Minnesota.

Another illness the county has had to contain is pertussis, or whooping cough. When public health learns of a pertussis case in the county, it asks the patient?s family members to be seen by a doctor to check if they have the disease. Public health notifies the schools, and calls the patient after 14 days to see if their cough remains.

?We strongly recommend that people stay home if they have the disease,? Estle said. ?Wash your hands, too. It?s a simple thing that can make a huge difference.?


Hand washing

Estle said hand washing is a good way to control the spread of lots of other diseases, too. The component of hand washing that makes the most difference is not so much the brand used but the friction created by rubbing the hands together. She recommends washing one?s hands for as long as it takes to sing the song ?Happy Birthday? twice.

?Even if you?re using hand sanitizer during the day, you still need to wash your hands,? she said.

She recommends people wear a surgical mask if they are sick to avoid spreading germs through the air.

In general, Estle recommends people not share their food or eat off each other?s plate to avoid spreading germs, since many germs are passed through saliva.


Childcare consultant

Mandi Lauderman is a childcare nurse consultant for public health. Through a grant from Early Childhood Iowa, Lauderman has been able to offer services to daycare providers in three counties: Jefferson, Keokuk and Iowa. Her tasks include teaching children about the importance of hand washing, preventing diseases and inspecting playgrounds to ensure they?re safe, like making sure they have enough mulch on the ground.


Community involvement

Public health has been involved in Blue Zones and the community transformation grant that remodeled the intersection of 12th Street and West Burlington.

Now the intersection sports pedestrian paths, timed crosswalks, curb cuts to make the crosswalks wheelchair accessible, and a left turn-arrow on West Burlington. Estle also sits on many health-oriented boards such as the Alcohol Consumption Task Force, Tobacco Prevention Center, and has participated in countywide emergency preparedness exercises.