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COVID-19 pandemic increases staff, pay at public health agency

Updated February 29, 2024 - 8:32 pm

What a difference a pandemic can make for payroll at a public health agency.

There were 747 employees at the Southern Nevada Health District in 2019. They earned $39.8 million in total pay and $55.4 million in combined pay and benefits, according to public records obtained by the Review-Journal.

In March 2020, Southern Nevada reported its first case of COVID-19. The agency ramped up to provide testing, contact tracing and disease investigation, vaccinations and treatments to fight the new and potentially fatal virus.

By 2022, the number of health district employees had grown to 1,239, an increase of 66 percent. Total pay at the agency swelled to $56.7 million, an increase of 30 percent, according to the most recent data. Total compensation including benefits grew to $78.9 million, records show, an increase of 42 percent.

The number of employees earning at least $100,000 per year in pay alone more than doubled from 48 to 102.

With the pandemic in our rear-view mirror, some of the added positions are being cut.

“During the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Southern Nevada Health District received an influx of federal funding that not only assisted in providing resources in terms of staffing for the ongoing response but also served to address long-recognized gaps in public health infrastructure,” spokeswoman Jennifer Sizemore wrote in an email.

As federal pandemic funding has declined over the past year, positions have been eliminated, she wrote. “When possible and appropriate, affected employees are reassigned to open positions. This has helped to minimize the impact on both employees and our organization.”

In 2019, the top-paid employee was District Health Officer Dr. Joseph Iser, who made $202,000 in pay and $282,000 in total compensation, including retirement and other benefits.

The highest-paid employees in 2022 were the following:

■ Dr. Fermin Leguen, district health officer, pay $250,000, total compensation $324,000

■ Dr. Cortland Lohff, primary and preventive care director, pay $223,000, total compensation $292,000

■ Dr. Michael Johnson, director of community health services, pay $201,000, total compensation $271,000

■ Cassius Lockett, director of disease surveillance and control, pay $192,000, total compensation $264,000

■ Heather Anderson-Fintak, general counsel, pay $162,000, total compensation $226,000

Contact Mary Hynes at mhynes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @MaryHynes1 on X. Hynes is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.

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