Lawmakers Waste No Time Trying to Head off Additional Crises at Oklahoma Health Department

Feb 6, 2018

Credit Oklahoma Watch

The Oklahoma House Public Health Committee approved two measures Tuesday aimed at preventing future financial and accountability problems at the State Department of Health.

House Bill 3581 makes it clear the health department’s accountability office can go directly to the State Board of Health if there’s a problem with the commissioner.

"This is in regard to what was believed to be Commissioner [Terry] Cline not — or scuttling any complaints within the department and the board not having knowledge of it," said Rep. Mark Lawson.

Lawson said he didn't think the lack of a law necessarily silenced health department employees before the agency's problems came to light.

"I don’t think there was anything keeping people from walking in and telling the board," Lawson said. "This is just cleaning that up and saying, 'You can do that. If you’re having this problem, don’t feel like you need to go immediately to your supervisor. You can go directly to the board to make sure that this is known.'"

The bill also puts the accountability office directly under the board of health rather than under the general supervision of the commissioner. HB3581 passed the committee 7–1.

House Bill 3584 could create a more business-savvy state board of health. The measure would add the requirement for at least two of the nine board members to have at least five years of experience in a medical business.

While the term "medical business" isn’t defined, Rep. Marcus McEntire said it could make a difference for an agency that needed $30 million dollars in the middle of the fiscal year to make payroll.

"Perhaps, maybe, some of the issues that the department of health had that are being exposed now could have been either mitigated or avoided altogether," McEntire said.

HB3584 passed 8–0.