Public health officials in Hawaii appear to be in turmoil amid the coronavirus pandemic after the embattled state epidemiologist was put on paid leave on Friday.
Dr. Sarah Park has become the third public health official to leave recently.
Earlier this week, Bruce Anderson, director of the state’s health department, announced he was resigning, and Dr Emily Roberson, who was only recently appointed to lead the contact tracing operation in Hawaii, asked to be put on leave, the Honolulu Star Advertiser reported.
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The changes come as Hawaii has seen the number of coronavirus-related deaths rise to 79 and confirmed cases of the virus surpass 9,200, both numbers having increased in the past two months alone, the newspaper reported.
They are also tracking departures from health departments in other states and cities, as health officials face criticism of their professional performance – or pushbacks against their policy proposals.
Park has come under heavy criticism for not developing strong testing and contact tracing programs for the state, according to the report.
“The removal of Bruce Anderson and Sarah Park was a critical step in starting a new leadership process in the state of Hawaii,” Dr. Scott Miscovich, president and founder of Premier Medical Group Hawaii, told the newspaper. . “It is clear that the aggressive use of testing, contact tracing and quarantine is the only way our state can follow best practices from the rest of the world and start stopping the COVID outbreak in Hawaii and many deaths that are preventable. ”
Park’s replacement during his leave will be Deputy Director Danette Wong Tomiyasu,
Anderson’s retirement is effective September 15. His acting replacement will be Dr Libby Char, an emergency physician, the Star Advertiser reported.
Health departments in other states and cities also experienced staff turnover during the pandemic. Among them:
Earlier this week, Milwaukee Health Commissioner Jeanette Kowalik resigned to join a Washington, DC-based think tank, according to the Associated Press.
Kowalik had expressed frustration with trying to implement coronavirus mitigation efforts, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.
In August, California’s director of public health, Dr Sonia Angell, resigned as technical issues led to an underestimation of coronavirus cases in the state.
Also in August, New York City Health Commissioner Dr Oxiris Barbot resigned from her post just weeks after telling a senior city police official, “I’m not giving to two rats a word for your cops. ”
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In June, West Virginia Governor Jim Justice accepted the resignation of Dr Cathy Slemp, Commissioner of the Bureau of Public Health and public health officer, after the governor expressed a “lack of confidence” in his performance. .
Also in June, Dr Amy Acton resigned as Ohio’s director of public health, just weeks after a judge ruled Acton’s order to close gyms in the state. was “unlawfully arbitrary, unreasonable and oppressive,” ABC News reported.
Acton initially took on another role in the state, but in August was appointed director of Kind Columbus, a project of the Columbus Foundation, a nonprofit philanthropic organization, Cleveland.com reported.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.