State House News Service reports that Republican lawmakers are charging Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, the Mass. Secretary of Health and Human Services, with lack of adequate oversight following an evidence-tampering scandal at the state drug lab and disclosures of tainted steroids at the The New England Compounding Center linked to more than 30 deaths around the nation. The news service reports that GOP leaders are calling for Bigby’s resignation:
House Minority Leader Brad Jones and members of his leadership team sent a letter to Patrick expressing their lack of confidence in Bigby to successfully manage the troubling situations, which both involve the Department of Public Health, an agency under Bigby’s oversight.
Bigby has testified twice this month before lawmakers during oversight hearings looking into the problems at the former Department of Public Health drug lab in Jamaica Plain and pharmacy industry oversight. While she has acknowledged that managers and regulators in both cases missed red flags and opportunities to limit the scope and spread of problems, she has told lawmakers that much of blame falls on the individuals involved in the wrongdoing.
Bigby has also tried to highlight the steps the Patrick administration has taken after the fact to remove managers and impose emergency regulations to improve oversight of the lab and by the Board of Registration in Pharmacy.
Earlier this month, when asked by WBUR’s Deb Becker who is responsible for the public health disasters, Bigby largely blamed the pharmacy and lower level staffers:
I think we need to remember that NECC is responsible for these deaths, and for producing these contaminated medications. There does need to be a stronger system of oversight of these compounding pharmacies, and we will be developing recommendations to build on the emergency regulations that we have already passed here on Nov. 1 to make sure that we have an appropriate system in place so that this will never happen again.
DB: At the same time, there was the state drug lab scandal, which the Department of Public Health was also involved with. Some are suggesting that both of these huge scandals show an agency in trouble…
JB: The drug lab scandal is still under investigation and more information will come to light about that. [Chemist] Annie Dukhan clearly acted in an irresponsible way and that is without question. I do believe that the supervision of the lab and her actions was inadequate, and the people responsible for that lack of supervision have been relieved of their duties.
DB: So in both of these instances, the responsibility really was with lower-level staff members and they and their supervisors have been disciplined, and the state is taking corrective action in both cases. That would that be correct to say?
JB: That is correct.