METHUEN — Public health nurse Amy Ewing, responsible for steering the city’s health needs through the ongoing global pandemic and for 20 years prior, has accepted a similar job in Andover.
Ewing’s last day in Methuen will be Aug. 14, according to Mayor Neil Perry. A temporary replacement has been named while the future of the public health nurse position is considered, he said.
Economic Development Director William Buckley explained that Ewing's nursing background combined with her public health experience has allowed two jobs to be streamlined.
For a salary of $69,000, Ewing has served as a bridge that connects Methuen residents with crucial health information — like when mosquitoes in the area test positive for West Nile virus — as well as general community wellness guidance.
"It's morphed over the years. I used to be the public health nurse and then took on the public health agent aspect," she said. "From disease intervention, to running clinics, and then policy and procedure regulation and serving as the Board of Health liaison."
Buckley said, “Amy was able to do both.”
“We need to make a decision, when replacing her, if it will be one person to do that, or if they will be broken up in some fashion," he said.
Ewing’s role during the pandemic has required many hours, “24/7 since the start,” Buckley said.
She is Methuen’s main contact with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, in touch about disease tracking, reporting and control efforts.
Perry praised Ewing’s management of contact tracing efforts in the city to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
Ewing’s temporary replacement has experience with the needs of the job, Perry said, especially as they pertain to COVID-19. She is Board of Health member Debra Rillahan, a Methuen resident and retired North Andover public health nurse and private duty nurse.
“We’re bringing her on as a contractor,” said Buckley, noting that her pay is $40 per hour. “She’s familiar with the requirements of reporting infectious diseases and will be filling in temporarily until we come up with a longer-term solution.”
Ewing and Rillahan are working alongside each other until Ewing’s last day, according to Buckley. Ewing is splitting her final weeks between Methuen and Andover.
Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said Ewing is joining the municipality as assistant director of public health with a salary of $80,487.
Her Andover job description explains that she will, “perform administrative and supervisory work in the field of public health administration and public health education.”
Ewing will be responsible for all clinical programs of the Health Division, including program planning, administration, budgeting, scheduling, implementation and evaluation.
Additionally, she will audit community health status indicators and evaluate efficiency of clinical intervention programs.
"The new job just kind of happened. It's a new challenge, it's a different opportunity," she said. "I thought it was a good time to explore something new."
Buckley referred to Ewing’s departure from Methuen as “a tremendous loss to the city.”