Bush Administration Kept Surgeon General ‘Out of the Loop’
"[L]ame-duck" Surgeon General David Satcher has been "kept out of the loop" during the escalating anthrax crisis, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports, continuing the media's examination of how the Bush administration has handled the incidents. Some public health experts have said recent efforts by Satcher, who has been "largely out of sight" during the incidents, to "ste[p] up appearances" are "too little, too late." Part of the problem is that Satcher is a "Clinton administration holdover" and, therefore, has been "virtually ignored" by the Bush administration, the Sun-Sentinel reports. For example, until two weeks ago, the Bush administration had been reluctant to "relinquish control over information given to the public from anyone" other than Cabinet-level officials, such as HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge. The surgeon general is not a cabinet position. Allan Rosenfield, dean of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, said, "The [Bush administration's] early communications strategy was not a good one. There should have been experts with a medical and public health background speaking out about the health aspects of it. That's what a surgeon general is for." A health official who worked under former HHS Secretary Donna Shalala added, "This administration will learn, like previous administrations, how important the surgeon general's voice is in a time of health crisis. (But) they haven't learned that lesson yet." The Sun-Sentinel reports that the communications problems are further compounded by the fact that two "key health posts" are unfilled -- the NIH director and FDA commissioner (Cimons/Ornstein, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 10/29).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.