Wednesday morning Moore County Judge Rowdy Rhoades swore in Dr. Carmen Purl as the first Local Health Authority (LHA) for Moore County. The move establishes a local structure that will oversee infectious diseases and public health issues within Moore County. In particular, dealing with the current COVID-19 pandemic.

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Until now Moore County public health has been handled by the regional medical authority under the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), which has been overwhelmed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

By appointing Dr. Purl as the LHA, Moore County will have a local medical authority who is familiar with the local situation and will work with regional DSHS officials as well as local government officials and agencies.

Dr. Purl says Moore County needs “good data that is up-to-date and gives the citizens of Moore County an accurate picture of what is going on, specifically with COVID.” With up-to-date information, Dr. Purl said local people can make decisions for their families.

The first thing Dr. Purl plans on working on is getting accurate and regular COVID-19 information updates published to Moore County residents. Due to delays in the processes of reporting data, Dr. Purl says the local COVID-19 numbers are currently higher than is reported by DSHS. She will begin work by compiling this data locally and publishing on a regular basis. Details on where the data will be published are still being worked out.

Dr. Carmen Purl | Source: drcarmenpurl.com

According to Dr. Purl’s website, she completed her residency in Family Medicine at Central Texas Medical Foundation and at Brackenridge Hospital in Austin. She received her medical degree from UTHSC in San Antonio. She has a Bachelor’s Degree from West Texas State University and Amarillo College. Dr. Purl came to Sunray in 2003 from the Emergency department at Golden Plains Community Hospital. She has 7 years of emergency room experience in addition to her private Family Practice experience. Dr. Purl also serves on the Moore County Hospital District Board as the Medical Staff Representative for Family Medicine.

Texas Health & Safety Code §§ 121.002; 121.022 says a local health authority (LHA) is a competent and reputable physician licensed to practice medicine in Texas who is appointed by a municipality or county to administer state and local laws relating to public health within the local jurisdiction.

An LHA has supervisory authority and control over the administration of communicable disease control measures within his or her jurisdiction unless specifically preempted by the state and is also authorized to perform each duty that is necessary to implement and enforce a law to protect the public health or prescribed by DSHS, including the right of entry to real property and a right of access to an individual that is in isolation or quarantine.

Texas Health and Safety Code (Sec. 121.024) outlines the LHA’s responsibilities include, among others:

  1. Establishing, maintaining, and enforcing quarantine in the LHA’s jurisdiction.
  2. Aiding DSHS with local quarantine, inspection, disease prevention and suppression, birth and death statistics, and general sanitation within the LHA’s jurisdiction.
  3. Reporting the presence of contagious, infectious, and dangerous epidemic diseases in the city/county.
  4. Reporting to the DSHS on any subject on which it is proper for a report to DSHS to be made.
  5. Aiding DSHS in enforcing.
    1. proper rules, requirements, ordinances
    2. sanitation laws
    3. quarantine rules
    4. and vital statistics collection.

The appointment of Dr. Purl as the LHA will be for a term of two years.

Related documents and links:

https://www.tml.org/DocumentCenter/View/1562/Local-Government-Emergency-Management

https://statutes.capitol.texas.gov/Docs/HS/htm/HS.121.htm