WILKES-BARRE — After months of trying to find a city health director after Henry Radulski retired in April, Mayor George Brown revealed last week who it will be: Henry Radulski.
“It’s been very difficult to find someone to replace Hank for the last six months or so. The requirements that the state has set to fill the position aren’t easy to meet, and there aren’t many people qualified to do the job Hank is doing. And he did an outstanding job in that position,” Brown said in an interview with Radulski and a reporter last week.
“So, with that in mind, I asked Hank if he would consider coming back and he did, and I’m very happy that he did because everyone knows Hank’s experience, they know his background,” Brown said.
The mayor noted that Radulski has guided the city through a once-in-100-year pandemic and that he and his team have provided guidance to other communities as well.
“Hank has really proven that he is a leader in the health department,” Brown said. “He has a great attitude and does a great job. … So, I’m just happy that Hank is coming back and will be working with us again to take the lead of that department.
Radulski will resume the reins Feb. 6, overseeing a $1.42 million departmental budget and four offices within the department: Preventive Health, Environmental Health, Health Education, and Public Health Preparedness.
Now 67, Radulski said he decided to retire in April because he “thought the time was right”.
“However, what happened was – and this is my fifth decade in public health – I was in the public health carousel for about five decades and then I retired. But, as you know, I was still helping out (as a consultant), so that carousel wheel was still spinning when I got off. It never completely stopped,” Radulski said.
Radulski initially agreed to work part-time as a permanent consultant for the city acting as a retired medical director. But an inquiry the newspaper made of the state department of health into the requirements for a city health director revealed that state code required the position to be full-time.
State code also requires that the director be a physician with a minimum of two years of public health supervisory or administrative experience, licensed to practice medicine or osteopathy in the Commonwealth, or eligible for licensure within one year of appoint, or, if not a physician, a person with at least four years of public health supervisory or administrative experience complemented by a master’s degree in public health, hospital administration, public administration, or a related discipline.
State officials agreed to allow Radulski to continue in the consultant position through the end of the year. Brown appointed city employee and registered nurse Kady McGlynn as interim director before the end of the year.
During his time as a consultant, Radulski saw that Brown’s administration was having difficulty finding a replacement for him.
“And I knew going much longer, it was going to get even harder,” Radulski said. “When you look at the statistics, they predict that the public health workforce will lose 44% of its employees – and it’s already started – by 2025. And that’s one of the challenges of finding people. And I know other health departments also struggle to find employees.
She also decided to return because McGlynn had recently taken over Delphine Torbik’s job as associate director of personal health after Torbik retired. Torbik also oversaw the city’s COVID-19 plan. Learning two new stances, let alone one, would be a challenge for anyone, Radulski said.
“Kady McGlynn, who is still interim director, has done a great job. There are certain skills that she has and I have – some things that she could do that I can’t do and there are things that I do that she couldn’t – so I was realizing that as a consultant,” Radulski said. “My heart he’s been with the health department forever. It’s in my blood. And since I’ve been doing it as a consultant I thought it was time to come back.”
Radulski will stop receiving his pension when he returns as full-time director on Feb. 6 and will recalculate and start again when he finally retires, though he doesn’t yet know when that might be.
“Obviously, learning from that, hopefully, when I decide, we’ll have a long-term window to say it’s going to be a year or whatever we could prepare so that doesn’t happen again,” Radulski said. .
“At this stage in my life, I take everything day by day. So, obviously, I haven’t set a date regarding the limits,” he said. “As long as I feel like my health is good, I feel good, I like my job, I’ll stay as long as possible.”