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pendermed300.jpg Submitted by Hailey Winslow on Wed, 05/12/2010 - 8:18am.

BURGAW, NC (WWAY) -- Members of the Pender County Board of Health and the County Commission have decided to heighten an investigation into the health department. Commission Chair Jimmy Tate says they made a personnel decision during closed session tonight, but would not disclose what the decision is. This all stems from health department employees accusing other employees of taking drugs, violating confidentiality practices, and improper training. "Taking the drugs, there have been some issues. I'd just rather not go into detail about those," Nursing Supervisor for Clinical Services Shirley Steele said. Employee drug use and other allegations sparked an investigation at the Pender County Health Department. Health Director Dr. Jack Griffith denies those claims. "I'm in the clinics all the time, and I'm all over the health department," Griffith said. "I would know if we had employees acting erratically. I've been around to ask several employees. Nobody knows of any drug use." Griffith did admit a nurse-in-training put an uncapped needle into a dirty tray, but he says it's the only allegation that's actually true. "Anyone who works for the health department who would present that kind of information publicly has done a great disservice to the health department, to her colleagues, her professional colleagues and other nurses and the physicians in the clinic," Griffith said. Some say Steele is falsifying the other claims because she wants to be the next health director. "Dr. Griffith and I did talk about when I finished my education, that when he retired, that I would like to apply for his position," Steele said. "That is not anything that I'm even considering at this point." Griffith wrote a letter to Board of Health member Jason Leary asking him to step down after Griffith said Leary was bad-mouthing the health department to businesses in the community. Griffith also says Leary verbally and physically threatened him. Leary did not step down from the board. Two agencies will investigate the allegations against the health department. "I think that the assessment will show who's doing their jobs," Steele said. Board members were supposed to announce which independent agencies will investigate the health department at Monday night's meeting, but they did not. We're told the announcement will be made by the end of the week.

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