Jackson Discusses Public Health Efforts
The Department of Health Services' hiring system and "micromanagement" from DHS and the Legislature affected efforts to reform the state public health system, former Public Health Officer Richard Jackson said in a telephone interview after his recent resignation, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
DHS Director Sandra Shewry said she was disappointed about Jackson's resignation but said that the state's emergency preparedness has improved in the past year, primarily because of his efforts.
According to the Chronicle, DHS is often "unable to replace the microbiologists who retire" because of a shortage of funds and competition from private biotechnology companies.
The nonpartisan Little Hoover Commission in June warned that the labor shortage within DHS could have serious consequences. "The state has not deployed a public health surveillance system that could detect serious threats in time to save thousands of lives,'' Michael Alpert, chair of the commission, wrote in a letter to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) and state lawmakers. He added that California "has not stopped the serious erosion of its laboratory capacity, which is essential to analyzing medical responses.''
Some of the shortcomings addressed in the Little Hoover Commission report were outlined by Jackson two weeks before he submitted his resignation. For example, Jackson said, as a consequence of reducing staff, many tests routinely performed by the state lab have been eliminated or are performed less frequently (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/31).