Rockwall County’s Health Authority has announced her intention to resign after five months of serving, citing frustration with the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a letter to county commissioners, Dr. Jamie Metcalf-Kelly wrote the expectation of using her expertise to help protect the health and welfare of Rockwall County residents “will never be realized.”
“I understood I would be part of a 'Covid Team' working on a coordinated plan to address this crisis in Rockwall. This has not been the case. There is no 'team' or up to date plan and any input I offered was tolerated but not acted upon,” Dr. Kelly wrote. “Decisions are made unilaterally with a disregard for standard public health procedures and the epidemiological facts of Covid 19. We are falling woefully short of the mandate to serve and protect the residents of Rockwall County. The Health Authority position needs to be statutorily delineated with defined responsibilities and the authority to carry them out. In the absence of this, the role of Health Authority in Rockwall County will remain ornamental.”
Kelly took over the position in July, shortly after Dr. Gary Bonacquisti resigned in June after 11 years as Rockwall County Health Authority. Dr Bonacquisti resigned verbally over a Rockwall County Emergency Management call which included mayors, police chiefs, and County Judge David Sweet, Kelly said.
Bonacquisti currently serves as chief medical officer at Texas Health Resources in Rockwall.
“I can confirm I left for very similar reasons and the fact that the hospital has been all consuming,” he wrote in a text Wednesday. “But for the verbal resignation, it was almost for the exact reasons stated by Dr. Kelly.”
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In an interview with NBC 5 Wednesday, Kelly said there was little guidance on what the position would entail and what was expected. We asked for examples of ideas she had that were “tolerated but not acted upon”, as indicated in her letter.
“One of my big ideas is, we need watchers at different stores, restaurants. Not to talk to, not to interact – simply watch. How many people in this part of the county are wearing masks? If they’re not, why? Is it because they’re eating? Or is it because other reasons?” she explained.
Kelly claimed ideas were generally met with silence and described their weekly meetings as “white noise.”
“I wanted to try and let them know in general, what the vaccine situation was. Just give them general facts, but we didn’t have a game plan. Every week, it was ‘we’re going to read the numbers’ from the hub. It just gets to be so much white noise. People go deaf to it,” she said.
“They don’t hear it anymore. I didn’t understand the point. It felt like rubber stamping something, like there. We’ve done something. Nothing constructive, nothing that’s productive but something.”
Rockwall County Judge David Sweet confirmed Wednesday, his office has received the letter from Kelly and that he was not dismissing any frustrations. However, he said the comments on “rubber stamping” were mischaracterized.
“Quite honestly, I was caught off but fully respect her decision,” Judge Sweet said. “We were extremely, extremely clear from the beginning as what was asked of this partnership. It was ‘Hey, this is when you’re coming into this and I know this is a crazy time to step up and some things won’t make sense. We’re limited on what we’re able to do and regardless on opinions on that.’”
Sweet also disputed Kelly’s claims that her recommendations were not considered.
“I am not aware of any recommendations, suggestions or anything we can enact on a local level that we were allowed to be able to do that we did not take into consideration. Not only that, but we did not enact,” he said.
Judge Sweet told NBC 5 their team will meet Thursday with another physician who has expressed interest in the county health authority position. Sweet also pointed to the county dashboard as one of the resources residents had in order to receive to updated information on COVID-19 in Rockwall County.
Kelly's resignation is effective Dec. 29.