PLAINS — Sanders County commissioners will start the process of hiring a new Public Health Officer after last week's resignation of Nick Lawyer, who stepped down after a summer of political debate over COVID-19 policy, and the death of a local woman.
Sanders County commissioners tell MTN News they will advertise for a replacement for Nick Lawyer, hoping to select someone "in the near future."
As we reported over the weekend, Lawyer says he resigned at the request of commissioners, after weeks of debate over Health Department funding and policies, and a local man complaining his wife died because she was denied Ivermectin.
"He blames me in part for her death, claiming that I am dictating the medical care and the policies and procedures around things like Ivermectin, and hydroxychloroquine, and monoclonal antibodies, which are not proven effective in my opinion for people who are in ICU care," Lawyer told MTN News. "Now again, I don't have any power or any ability to tell emergency room or a hospitalist physician how to treat a particular patient."
"And I'm sorry for the loss of his wife and the pain his family suffering. But again, I've never met him. I've never cared for his wife," he continued. "I simply had no involvement in their case."
In a weekend interview with David Begnaud of CBS News, Lawyer said he was also criticized for "giving evidenced-based solutions" on precautions like vaccines, but "did not request or require" any mandates.
"This is an appointed position and the Commissioners deserve to have a public health officer for their county that they can have confidence in and that they want. They get that choice.
"I am not a quitter and I am really frustrated that I've been asked to resign this position during a very critical point in our COVID pandemic in Sanders County. But ultimately it is the commissioner's choice," Lawyer said.
Last week, just hours before the resignation, Lawyer had shared with MTN News his frustration and concerns over the pressure on medical professionals
"They are experiencing more and more abuse from patients who are angry and upset," Lawyer said. "Not everybody, not even the majority, but it's happening more frequently and that worries me for the long-term health of my hospital, my team, and my community.
"Because if we don't have the medical providers, we don't have the nurses, it's just it's not going to get any better," Lawyer concluded.
Lawyer says his departure won't change his efforts to continue reaching out to the community as a medical professional, advocating "personal responsibility" and "good decision making."
A New York Times tracker notes Sanders County had the highest rate of COVID cases in the US over the past 14 days.