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Regional News

What People Are Saying About SRHD/Lutz Situation

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Washington State Medical Association
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A wide variety of interests have weighed in on news that the head of the Spokane Regional Health District has asked Health Officer Bob Lutz to resign.

City Council President Breean Beggs has issued the following statement in his personal capacity as a response to the announcement today from Spokane Regional Health District:

“Yesterday evening I received the unexpected news that the Spokane County Public Health Officer had been terminated from his position at the Spokane County Health District.

The Spokane County Health District By-Laws provide at Article IV, Section 3 that: “The Board of Health shall approve the appointment and termination of a District Health Officer.” (emphasis added.)  To my knowledge, the Spokane County Health District Board has not taken any action to approve the termination of Dr. Lutz.  In order to do so, the Board would have to vote at a meeting that was properly noticed and open to the public, subject to the Governor’s orders on open public meetings.

Much of what I know about this situation was derived from an executive session meeting of the Board yesterday, and by law, I am not authorized to reveal that information absent a waiver of confidentiality.  I look forward to the required public board meeting when I can address the merits of the situation as I see it from my perspective and on behalf of the City of Spokane which I represent on the Health Board.

I have greatly appreciated the leadership and the work of the entire staff of the Health District, including Dr. Lutz, in supporting Spokane through this pandemic.  We would be in a much worse situation without their work, and I understand the deep community concern at this turn of events.  I join those requesting prompt answers to how the District will fill the duties of those unique tasks granted only to an authorized local public health officer.

My request to the public is that they presume the same good intentions I do of all those working at the Health District.   I commit to following our by-laws and the Open Public Meetings Act and working hard to restore confidence in the organization.”

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Spokane Mayor Nadine Woodward issued a statement: “Dr. Lutz has faced an extremely tough challenge over an extended time and gave everything he had to the community. Spokane and the state were the first to take the national stage in February. We have been learning about the virus as we go and those long months since have left our region anxious, tired, and frustrated that we are not progressing as fast as everyone had hoped. This is a community health and economic emergency and it takes partnership and community to solve it; we will rally together as Spokane always does. Please continue to put your loved ones, friends, neighbors, and colleagues first as you remain resilient and practice good mask etiquette and hand hygiene.”
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Tweet from Whitworth University President Beck Taylor:

For the second week in a row, Whitworth is reporting zero Covid-19 cases among on-campus students. Way to go, Pirates! I attribute much of our success to Dr. Bob Lutz of @SpokaneHealth, who was inexplicably asked to step down by his board. My head is spinning. Doesn't make sense.

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Tweet from Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh:

I am personally very concerned by the reported ouster of the Director of @spokanehealth, Dr. Bob Lutz. In the face of this pandemic he has worked tirelessly & been a wise, effective guide to us in @spokanecounty & @GonzagaU. It is my hope that this decision can be reconsidered.

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A short statement from the Washington Department of Health: "The Washington State Department of Health would like to thank Dr. Bob Lutz for his service to Spokane County as a local public health leader. We remain ready to offer support to the county health district as needed until a new Local Health Officer is named."

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Statement from Spokane County Democrats:

SPOKANE, WA - The Spokane County Democrats remain united in our support of science. Dr. Lutz has been a strong advocate in keeping our community safe, offering critical guidance at a time when our residents’ health and safety are threatened.

The decision by the Spokane Regional Health District Board to force out Spokane County’s health officer amid a pandemic is unconscionable. Just yesterday, Spokane reported four additional COVID-19 related deaths and crossed over the barrier of 200 total deaths since the start of the pandemic. The district confirmed 112 new cases yesterday. In what universe is eliminating the public health officer from the county the appropriate response to surging cases and continued deaths?

Equally concerning is the lack of transparency in the process to remove Dr. Lutz from his critical role of Public Health Officer. The meeting was not open to the public, and not even the Board of Health had the opportunity to vote on this. The press conference today was a farce. The press conference offered no explanations. Just this week, Dr. Lutz was rewarded with the 2020 Sister Peter Claver Humanitarian Award, which Spokane Regional Health District touted with pride. It’s hard to see this decision to remove Dr. Lutz as anything other than a political choice.

Removing our county’s public health officer amid a major public health crisis is negligent at best and maliciously reckless at worst.

At this stage, we still have no clear answers about who will be making critical public health decisions. Our community needs experienced guidance and a public health official who lets science guide their decisions. Dr. Lutz was this trusted person. Now, we are left to wonder what will come of those who deny the importance of wearing masks. Dr. Lutz’s removal may be seen as invalidating Dr. Lutz’s pleas regarding the importance of masks.

Our community is vulnerable right now. Lives are in danger, and as a county, we can’t neglect the needs of the most vulnerable among us who are particularly threatened by the pandemic. The decision to remove Dr. Lutz is an asinine and negligent decision that will imperil lives.

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A STATEMENT OF APPRECIATION FROM THE SPOKANE COUNTY SUPERINTENDENTS

As superintendents of the public school districts in Spokane County, we have each sincerely appreciated the thoughtful guidance and generous time Dr. Bob Lutz (and others on the Spokane Regional Health District team) has provided us throughout the ongoing pandemic.

Decisions that have been made have not been easy or uncomplicated, for any of us nor for Dr. Lutz and other public health professionals. Yet, he has leaned in with us and collaborated as we have strived to make the best decisions possible for our students and district communities, and for the larger regional community we share.

Mr. Ben Small, Superintendent, Central Valley School District
Mr. Rob Roettger, Superintendent, Cheney School District
Mr. Travis Hanson, Superintendent, Deer Park School District
Mr. Kelly Shea, Superintendent, East Valley School District
Dr. Randy Russell, Superintendent, Freeman School District
Mr. Jeff Baerwald, Superintendent, Great Northern School District
Mr. Brett Baum, Superintendent, Liberty School District

Mr. Shawn Woodward, Superintendent, Mead School District

Mr. Tim Ames, Superintendent, Medical Lake School District
Dr. Dave Smith, Superintendent, Newport School District,
Mr. Brian Talbott, Superintendent, Nine Mile Falls School District
Ms. Suzanne Savall, Superintendent, Orchard Prairie School District

Mr. Eric Sobotta, Superintendent, Reardan-Edwall School District
Dr. Ken Russell, Superintendent, Riverside School District
Dr. Adam Swinyard, Superintendent, Spokane School District

Mr. Kyle Rydell, Superintendent, West Valley School District
Dr. Michael Dunn, Superintendent, Northeast Washington ESD 101

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Tweet from Gonzaga University President Thayne McCulloh:

I am personally very concerned by the reported ouster of the Director of @spokanehealth, Dr. Bob Lutz. In the face of this pandemic he has worked tirelessly & been a wise, effective guide to us in @spokanecounty & @GonzagaU. It is my hope that this decision can be reconsidered.

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