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City of Corpus Christi taking inspiration from major cities' health departments

Posted at 6:30 PM, Oct 21, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-21 22:05:43-04

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The Corpus Christi-Nueces County Public Health District’s split may seem sudden, but Corpus Christi City Manager Peter Zanoni said the city has been working on this split for nearly two decades.

He said since the health district has been around for nearly 40 years, the model is outdated. He said that’s why he’s looking to other seven major cities in Texas that are larger than Corpus Christi for inspiration.

“Part of it is: we’ll have accountability that we don’t have today," he said. "Under the model , there' two bosses, and when you have two people in charge, nobody’s in charge.”

He also said the city is considering bringing in paramedics and EMS to serve as staff at the city health department, something he said other major cities use in theirs.

“We can use them in lieu of using staff in the health department,” Zanoni said.

Zanoni said one of the primary focuses of the new city health department will be to add value to the taxpayer. He said residents’ taxes would not go up as a result of the split.

“Today, our taxpayers are subsidizing this outdated model and paying more than we should,” he said.

Zanoni said a separate health system would allow the city to focus on health issues that the city is facing.

“We have a very high obesity rate, very high diabetes rate, we have an early mortality rate in some of the sections of the city,” he said.

Zanoni said while some of the programs offered by the current city-county health department will also be offered at the city’s health department when they split, the city also is looking at making some new programs, though he said he doesn’t know what they will be. He said they may be a part of the split in January, but currently are a work in progress.

Zanoni said they have talked with Nim Kidd, the chief for the Texas Division of Emergency Management about the latest models used by major cities.

In a statement provided to KRIS 6 News, Kidd said the division works with major cities, as well as other health authorities in smaller cities, whether they are individually or jointly managed.

The statement can be found below:

“The Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) works collaboratively with health authorities across our state, no matter how they’re organized, or if they’re jointly operated, individually operated, or state operated. Each of these models works to support local public health needs in communities across our state as determined by locally elected officials. Chief Kidd is supportive of locally elected bodies making decisions to dedicate workforce and personnel to support the needs of their community. TDEM has worked well with Texas’ major cities that have local public health departments organized in this same fashion.”

One Harris County representative said having split county and city health departments is more convenient because about half their residents from Houston go to the city’s health department, while the other half, residents from other surrounding cities, go to the Harris County health department.