The Geary County Health Department started the hiring process for a Licensed Practical Nurse to do tasks related to COVID immunization, after receiving a grant though the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to cover the cost of the position.

The Geary County Commissioners voted unanimously earlier this month to approve the new position funded by the grant.

Crystal Malchose, Human Resources director at the health department said the LPN would be responsible for all tasks related to COVID, including vaccinations, testing, coordinating vaccination clinics, setting appointments for COVID vaccination in the clinics and helping to train community partners on the subject.

The position is full-time, and the length of the position is contingent on the length of the grant. The grant lasts for two years before it is subject to renewal, Malchose said.

“Since the state is no longer hosting the testing clinics and things like that, more of that is done at the local level, so our county health department will have to do more of the COVID testing,” she said. “There will be more paperwork, more hands-on stuff that will have to be done by our health department, so this grant allows us to have somebody that is dedicated to purely COVID stuff.”

Charles Martinez, deputy director at the Geary County Health Department, said starting next year, only the health departments can administer polymerase chain reaction COVID testing, which he explained is the most accurate and complicated method.

Although they are equipped to do the testing, Martinez said without the new position, the amount of work would overwhelm the staff. Additionally, with the new vaccine recommendations from the CDC, many people are starting to bring their children in for COVID immunizations, adding to the amount of people the health department will serve.

“All the (COVID) testing for PCR is going to go through the health department, which increases our workload for our COVID response quite a bit,” he said. “Right now, our nurses are maxed out with what they’re doing, so once we get an influx of patients for the PCR testing, we’re not going to be able to handle it all (without that position).”

Since the approval by the Geary County Commission, Malchose said the department is now in the hiring process, advertising the position. The start-date goal for the new LPN is Jan. 1.

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