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ROCK ISLAND — Rock Island County Health Department Medical Director Julie Voelker has resigned, effective Friday.

Voelker submitted her letter of resignation June 28, two days after it was reported by the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com that lab results testing positive for possible tuberculosis infection in six people went unreported at the health department, 2112 25th Ave., for nearly three months.

Health Department Chief Operating Officer Janet Hill said Voelker was a contract employee from UnityPoint, where she practices family medicine. Hill said she did not know why Voelker resigned. 

"Her reasons are her reasons; I don't want to comment on that," Hill said. "My concern is serving the people of Rock Island County. We are currently looking for someone to fill that position."

Voelker could not be reached for comment. 

Recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests submitted by the Dispatch-Argus-QConline.com revealed an email sent June 12 by Voelker to Nita Ludwig, health department administrator, and Leon Gibson, health board president, in regard to unopened lab results found on the desk of Joe Williams, a former nurse in the infectious diseases department. 

Williams told the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com on June 6 that he walked off the job in March in protest over the treatment he received from Shari Ortner, nursing supervisor of the infectious diseases department.

According to emails obtained through the FOIA request, Ortner told Voelker that nothing "was left undone" after Williams' resignation, but Voelker found a pile of unopened lab results on Williams' desk.  

An email from Voelker to Ludwig on June 12, after Voelker discovered the unopened lab results, asked: "Who covers my malpractice (insurance) for the health department? The county or UnityPoint?"

"The health department covers you when you are here," Ludwig replied.

When asked if any county health services would be interrupted with the absence of a medical director, Hill said Voelker requested that all STD clinics for this week be canceled. 

Hill said Voelker began working as medical director in November 2017. She said the health department could not operate without a medical director on staff, but a temporary medical services physician would be hired before Voelker's last day on Friday. 

"We will have one, so no services will lapse," Hill said. 

Ludwig and Richard Brunk, chairman of the Rock Island County Board, did not return calls seeking comment. 

Health board member Dr. Jeffrey Maurus said he was disappointed to hear of Voelker's resignation. 

"She is a very kind, caring person, and I will miss her greatly," Maurus said. 

Health board members will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the health department. The meeting is open to the public. 

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Reporter

Sarah is a reporter for the Dispatch-Argus-QCOnline.com.

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