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Review shows problems, possible solutions in Pender Health Department

READ MORE: Review shows problems, possible solutions in Pender Health Department

PENDER COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- An outside investigation confirms some employee complaints at the Pender County Health Department. The University of North Carolina's School of Public Health is shedding some light into what exactly the department needs to do to solve management problems.

Controversy over the county's health director Dr. Jack Griffith and internal affairs led to an independent assessment by UNC's Gillings School of Global Public Health. One of the biggest problems found was distrust among employees.

Forty-two pages outline both where the health department succeeds and where it needs to improve. The overview of the report points out four main results from UNC's assessment. One is the health department has had a successful past.
Two, the current problems are indeed fixable. Three, it brings to light gaps in performance. Those gaps are in programs and services, management and employees and financial management. The fourth point gives recommendations on how to bring the divided department back together.

Simply put, the employees expressed concerns about a lack of management, which can inhibit teamwork. UNC described the management as having a "my way or the highway" mentality. UNC emphasized the role of leadership in the department.

The report says leadership is crucial to help motivate employees to set goals and strategies. It also says the department should be open to what they call external input so they can make the right choices when spending public revenue.

UNC also did a financial assessment of the health department. That is expected to be finished by the end of the month.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


George's Mouthpiece

Ken Clarke at the Topsail Voice is very bias and nothing less than a mouthpiece for his friend George Brown. Ken’s articles are very one sided and lacking the whole truth. I’ll be more than happy to challenge his coverage of the Pender County Health Department line by line.

The recent assessment report had no smoking gun. Ken’s coverage attempted to blame Gwen Smith for not reporting financial information requested by the assessment team when in fact Ms. Smith did provide the information. If Mr. Clarke had done his homework he would have had a better understanding of the facts. The problem was that the information was not in the same format as the assessment team used, but this minor problem was resolved and the information is in hand.

Maybe Mr. Clarke should just write his stories via emails from George Brown and save his trips to Burgaw. The Topsail Voice at best is a fish wrapper.


Local media in small communities are in an unfortunate spot. They can’t afford to burn bridges with local government. If they did then no one would talk to them. This is my criticism with Ken Clarke at the Topsail Voice. Ken knows more than what he prints. By only playing it safe he can remain friends with the ones in power in Pender County. (George Brown) This is important to the success of a small newspaper. In turn, the readers do not get the whole story, just a piece of it. The problem is that most readers are lazy and believe only what they read. Nothing else. This is sad, but true.

On the other hand, WWAY decided to take another approach with the Pender County Health Department. WWAY thought it would be a great idea to air interviews with Shirley Steele and others in disguise blasting the Health Department with allegations of drug use, misappropriation of funds and Medicaid fraud. Then WWAY aired interviews with Commissioners George Brown and Jimmy Tate saying how upsetting this is and that they would get to the bottom of this. This all made great tabloid TV, but in reality, this was nothing more than a staged event which allowed some of the Commissioners to gain public support and the same time allowed WWAY to gain in the ratings battle.

The allegations that MS. Steele made were later discovered to be false by the B of H. This was before the first Assessment Team even walked into the Health Department door. All the findings of these false allegations were never reported by the press and they never will. This makes them look even more irresponsible as journalist, buts that the way it is. (Ms. Steele when interviewed by the B of H changed her drug abuse story to, “a nurse thought she smelled alcohol on someone’s breath a few years ago”. The local media never printed this. Why?

I have not recently read about or seen George Brown doing an interview recent where the interviewer asks Mr. Brown about the allegations which he stood behind then with a follow up question asking him if any of these allegations were true in the B of H findings. You will not see this on local TV nor will you read about it in your local newspaper.

So if you believe the Assessment then do this. Turn to the back sections of the Assessment and look at the Tables. Each one of the tables is numbered in the report. Now look and count how many of the tables are missing from the report. You will that about 10 of the tables are missing. What do these tables represent and why were they left out? Do you think those charts could have been beneficial to the Health Department? Did the local media bother to count the missing tables? Did you? Do you even care that you may have been lied to? I’m sure the report was released to the press by County Manager Rick Benton. Do you think Mr. Benton will send the missing tables out to the press? Will the local media follow up and print the tables for the public to see?

I read a statement from the Assessment Team and printed in the Topsail Voice stating that, “We found that one person was paying for their training out of pocket”’ Did the Topsail Voice inform its readers that County Manager Rick Benton has had a County wide freeze for the past two years on training unless it was for certification to keep a license? Why did I not read about this bit of information? I’m sure if this follow up reason was printed then the readers would have a different view of the situation. Mr. Benton should have spoke up at the Assessment meeting, but chose not to.

You may support George Brown and you may support what you read or see in the local media, but at least you are not in the minority. You are in the majority as with most of the public. You should be proud of yourself.

I find the coverage of Pender County pathetic as reported by the local media. So please don’t confuse the reasons for my views with whining.