SB 993 (Locke) would expand the possible credentials that the State Health Commissioner and local health directors could possess in order to be eligible to serve in these roles. Currently, the Commissioner and local health directors must be licensed physicians; the bill would allow a local health director to be a licensed physician or hold an advanced degree in the field of public health (similar provisions would apply to the Commissioner). Concerns were expressed as the bill moved through the process about the potential effects on health department operations if the director were not a physician, as there are a number of Code and regulatory provisions that assume that the local director, or his designee, is a physician. Currently, in several health districts, the director is the only physician on staff. A subcommittee of House Health, Welfare, and Institutions Committee recommended that the bill be continued to next year and that the issue be referred to the Joint Commission on Health Care, which would allow for some review of how local health department staffing can best address public health needs.
VACo Contact: Katie Boyle