Butler County’s 3 health commissioners recognized by county leaders for work during pandemic: What they’re saying

Jennifer Bailer, Butler County health commissioner, shown here in a 2020 news conference, was one of the county's three health commissioners honored by the YWCA this week for their grit, dedication and service during the COVID-19 pandemic response. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Jennifer Bailer, Butler County health commissioner, shown here in a 2020 news conference, was one of the county's three health commissioners honored by the YWCA this week for their grit, dedication and service during the COVID-19 pandemic response. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

YWCA Hamilton this week honored Butler County’s three health commissioners for their grit, dedication and round-the-clock, round-the-week service during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The three women, Butler County Commissioner Jennifer Bailer, Middletown Commissioner Jackie Phillips and Hamilton Commissioner Kay Farrar, also were praised for their innovations in such diverse endeavors as organizing volunteers and training them to provide vaccinations on a large scale.

The YWCA took the rare step during its annual Outstanding Women of Achievement award ceremony — this year’s was virtual — to present the proclamation to the three. The proclamation had been approved by Butler County Commissioners Cindy Carpenter, Donald Dixon and T.C. Rogers naming May 18 Health Commissioner Service Recognition Day. The YWCA had written the county’s proclamation.

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Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips speaks during a Heroin Summit meeting at at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips speaks during a Heroin Summit meeting at at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

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Middletown Health Commissioner Jackie Phillips speaks during a Heroin Summit meeting at at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown. NICK GRAHAM/STAFF

The proclamation thanked “each of them for the tireless expert care and attention shown to all citizens throughout the pandemic, and finally, to encourage citizens to find ways to give back to their communities in this county, imitating the bravery and dedication these registered nurses and health commissioners have embodied, modeling grit, grace, humility and respect for our collective humanity.”

Carpenter said in an interview, “Here they were, in departments that were under-funded, left without improvements for some time. In fact, Kay Farrar’s department had recently lost staff. So then comes the pandemic, and they had to deal with the unexpected.”

At the start of the pandemic, people were very afraid, she said. There weren’t enough coronavirus test kits or information. “In Ohio, we did not have centralized databases, and it had been more than 20 years since our computer systems for the health departments had been improved. And then, wham, comes the pandemic.”

“Fortunately for Butler County, we had put extraordinary people in the position of our health commissioners,” she said. “They stepped to the plate in an extraordinary manner.”

Dr. Keith Bricking, president of Atrium Medical Center, said, “Jackie and Jennifer have both been tremendous colleagues throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. They have been a steady voice of guidance to Atrium Medical Center’s efforts -- from the day we set up a triage tent outside our Emergency Trauma Center to the rollout of rapid testing and now vaccine clinics.”

“Their incredible response to the many phases of COVID-19 has commanded a new level of respect and admiration from the team at Atrium,” Bricking said.

Carpenter said, “We got testing in place very quickly in a very organized manner. Then when it came to vaccines, you saw the incredible organizational skills of these three health commissioners go into effect.”

All three also respect those who do not want to be vaccinated, Carpenter said.

Hamilton Mayor Pat Moeller said of the three: “Doctors can perform miracle-like surgery, but nurses are the angels of health care. The three health commissioners, as nurses and administrators, have worked so hard educating, testing, and vaccinating our citizens during the COVID-19 pandemic.... We are blessed to have them working as professionals in health care in Butler County.”

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Hamilton Health Commissioner last week updated City Council on the city's vaccination program. PROVIDED

Hamilton Health Commissioner last week updated City Council on the city's vaccination program. PROVIDED

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Hamilton Health Commissioner last week updated City Council on the city's vaccination program. PROVIDED

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