Ada County will have to wait another week to find out who will fill the empty seat on Central District Health.
On Tuesday, the Ada County Commissioners struggled to come to a consensus on which of the three physicians who applied for the five-year term should be appointed. Republican Commissioner Ryan Davidson heavily favored pathologist Dr. Ryan Cole and Democrat Kendra Kenyon pulled for epidemiologist Dr. Sky Blue, while Republican Commissioner Rod Beck didn’t signal strong support for any of the three candidates.
They finally opted to wait another week to take a vote, gather even more public input and parse through the emails the county has already received to find out how many were from Central District Health’s coverage area and how many were from activists out of state.
If you would like to submit feedback to the board on who you would like to be chosen, email the commissioners at [email protected].
Cole’s anti-vaccine comments ‘raise eyebrows’
This appointment caught the attention of the medical community and activists on both sides of the aisle.
According to BoiseDev’s review of comments made to the county, the vast majority of medical professionals who wrote in favored Blue. The left-leaning group The Idaho 97 Project also started a campaign to drive letters in favor of the epidemiologist later in the public input process. The Ada County Republicans, right-wing activists the Idaho Liberty Dogs, and various community members supported Cole. Dr. Stanley Moss, a retired orthopedic surgeon, is also in the mix.
Cole attracted negative feedback for his promotion of alternative treatments of COVID-19 from some other Treasure Valley physicians, including the Chief of Staff at the Boise VA Medical Center. He also criticized the COVID-19 vaccines. Boise State Public Radio reported he spoke at a conference in Texas last month and referred to the vaccines as “investigational vaccines,” a “fake vaccine” and “needle rape.” The Centers for Disease Controlsays the current vaccinesare “highly effective at preventing severe disease and death, including against the Delta variant.”
During Tuesday’s meeting, all three commissioners praised the full field of candidates for their qualifications, willingness to serve, and expertise they brought to the table. Davidson was especially supportive of Cole as an “outsider” who “doesn’t necessarily always tow the company line.”
“I don’t think the federal government has done a great job in messaging this pandemic as a whole,” Davidson said. “The fact that we only have 60% vaccination rates probably demonstrates that for me. I think having a different viewpoint and somebody who can speak to the people who have vaccine hesitancy in Ada County is a good option.”
Kenyon said she wanted to select Blue instead because of the backing of the medical community and his relationships with the hospitals and others who are working on public health in the region. She said his comments have “raised more than a few eyebrows” and strong objections to Cole meant she could not vote with Davidson.
Beck focused on fiscal experience
Beck said he was especially impressed by Cole and Moss’ immediate answer to his questions about the importance of a patient’s relationship with their doctor over the messaging of a public health department. He wasn’t sure why other doctors were criticizing Cole, but he thought the pathologist’s explanation during his interview that he was going against big moneyed interests was “fairly plausible.”
During the interviews, Beck asked each candidate if they were familiar with CDH’s budgets and they all said no. He also asked each candidate how big of an organization they run, and he noted that Cole’s business with 80 employees was the largest of the three applicants.
“One thing that did disappoint me of the three is that none of the three had looked at the budget of Central District Health,” Beck said. “I’m looking for a doctor who has budget experience running a large organization.”
Kenyon noticed the deliberation stalling and proposed a compromise of appointing Moss and requiring him to take advice from Blue and Cole to get “the best of all worlds.” She said this would allow the position to not be as divisive. But, Davidson said he wouldn’t go for the idea immediately because he wanted to hear from the “same voters” who had emailed, the vast majority in support of Cole.
“I don’t know if it would be preferable to have three voices instead of one voice especially if there is conflicting information on messaging, but I think since we’re not up against the legal deadline we can table this until the next week,” Davidson said, allowing the board to take another week to consider the seat.