Moline Health Department
On September 11, 1905, an ordinance was passed by the City Council of Moline, creating and establishing a board of health. On January 2, 1906. Dr. R. C. J. Meyer was appointed as the first commissioner, and the first board consisted (as required by ordinance) of the commissioner, Dr. R. C. J. Meyer, chairman; the mayor, Andrew Olsen; the chief of police, Edward Kittleson, secretary. The first meeting of the board was held on January 5, 1906, at which time it was decided that to accomplish the purpose of this department it would be necessary to start with an efficient and competent force of men. The first order issued was for sobriety, as follows: To the employees of the health department: You are hereby notified not to frequent saloons during working hours; all employees found in saloons during working hours will be immediately discharged. By order of the health department. R. C. J. Meyer, M. D., chairman. The ordinance requires the health commissioner to set aside one hour each day during which time he may hear complaints, and transact other business in connection with the office. The hour from 2 P. M. to 3 P. M. was selected as the hour best suited for such purposes. Reports are being made weekly to the Surgeon General Public Health and Marine Hospital Service, Treasury Department, Washington, D. C. Monthly reports are made to the City Council, and one to the State Board of Health. The first report to the City Council was made on February 5, 1906, for the month of January, 1906.Systematizing As this department was a new one a system had to be formulated, so that the work might be most efficient in the various branches, and the greatest good accomplished at a minimum expense.Vital Statistics In order that vital statistics might be obtained, records are kept of births, contagion, deaths and burial permits issued. No burial is permitted without such permit; these are made out in duplicate form, giving every important data connected with such burial; one is retained in the office of the health commissioner, the other by the cemetery board; thus a duplicate record is kept.Pure Food Division A laboratory was established in a room at the water works, and the milk test begun under the guidance and instruction of Professor W. J. Trueman of the State University at Urbana, Illinois. In the inspection of dairies and food stuff valuable assistance was rendered by Frank Hoey, Charles H. Kyellquist and other state inspectors. It was soon found that the faucet used by the milk men was not properly constructed, and a larger and straighter one, one that could be easier cleaned, was recommended and its installation insisted upon; this with other recommendations brought the milk product up to a high standard. At the suggestion of the health commissioner an ordinance was passed by the City Council making it an offense to sell or offer for sale any animal, fish or fowl that was not drawn at the time of slaughter, thus shutting out the cold storage product, and insuring sweet and wholesome meats, with little or no waste to the consumer. A constant supervision is kept for unwholesome food stuffs, and upon the request of the health commissioner, an ordinance was passed granting power to the health department to seize such unwholesome food stuffs and destroy the same; this has had a beneficial effect.Contagious Division This department encountered an epidemic of scarlet fever, and a great deal of diphtheria, as well as small pox, chicken pox, measles, etc., early in its history. Rules governing such cases had to be formulated, and en-forced; but as the people had been accustomed to laxity in this regard, and did not understand the importance of strict regulations, considerable difficulty was encountered, and some arrests had to be made to enforce the rules. It was soon discovered that the department was handicapped by being surrounded by territory in which the quarantine regulations were not enforced. Arrangements were made by the health commissioners of Moline and of Rock Island to appoint a committee of physicians of Rock Island and Moline to co-operate with the commissioners to formulate rules, and make them operative throughout this territory, as one; and the rules which had been adopted here in Moline were practically adopted, and the contagion stamped out. Bit not without showing the urgent necessity of a contagious hospital, and through the efforts of Dr. Meyer the physicians were organized and a committee appointed, plans drawn and the City Council requested to provide funds for the construction of such building. This petition was signed by all the physicians in the city, but without effect. Such building was to take care of all contagious, infectious, consumptive, and filthy diseases in the city.Sanitary Division The ordinance requires the police department to assist the health department, and all patrolmen are required to report all nuisances and matter detrimental to health to the health commissioner. Besides this a health inspector is provided, to be subordinate to, and under the personal direction of the commissioner of health. Many unsanitary conditions were found and abated. For cleaning the alleys of the city it was found best to divide the city up into districts, and place a man with his cart in charge, and hold him responsible for his district. In the Summer time the rubbish and garbage is collected separately; the garbage is required to be free from water and placed in covered cans for removal. Weeds are cut before the pollen have a chance to form, and all matters detrimental to health looked after.Public Baths It has long been known that boys and young men were in the habit of frequenting the slough and river for bathing purposes, seeking out of the way and often dangerous places. To rectify such evils and to minimize the dangers incident to such practices, the health commissioner sought to establish a suitable place, and under proper supervision, where the pleasures of the bath might be enjoyed, and the City Council was appealed to for permission to establish a bathing beach at Twenty-fifth Street, which was finally granted and construction commenced, but owing to various difficulties, has not been completed.Public Conveniences Realizing the necessity of better accommodations for the public, and especially the stranger, the health commissioner urged the City Council to take the initiative and establish accommodations in the City Park, and the ministers were urged to make pro-visions in their respective churches, with a general supervision entrusted to the police force, but so far nothing has been done.Defects In Health Ordinance In establishing the Health Department of Moline, Health Commissioner Dr. R. C. J. Meyer discovered many defects in the health ordinance, and at various times recommended changes, and in his annual report for 1906 recommended an entire recast to be made. Because of its many defects, and because the health commissioner is supposed to have supervision of all sanitary matters, but is shorn of the power to enforce his orders. For the reason that the men who are hired by the board that are not appointed by the City Council, it is impossible for him to get rid of incompetent, disobedient help if the board sees fit to keep them on the pay roll, nor is the health commissioner able to ad-minister the affairs of his department with strict economy under such conditions. Dr. Meyer held that money is spent extravagantly, for instance the inspector and the barn boss should be one, and the one salary saved to the people. Such and other recommendations were made by Dr. Meyer, but without avail. Dr. Meyer also held. that this department above all departments should be kept out of politics, in order that the greatest good may be accomplished for the people. The civic department of the Womans’ Club have been a great help to the health department and a great deal of credit is due them for their labors.
Source: Historic Rock Island County, pub. Kramer & Company, Rock Island, Illinois, 1908