The resignation Wednesday of Dr. Aldona Wos, the embattled secretary of the state Department of Health and Human Services, was as overdue as it was unsurprising. What was surprising was that Gov. Pat McCrory quickly announced a successor for Wos, giving no time for public input on a new leader for that crucial spot.
A graduate of Purdue University and the Stanford Graduate School of Business, according to the governor’s press release, the successor, Rick Brajer of Wake County, has “decades of senior leadership roles in the healthcare and medical industry. He most recently served as Chief Executive Officer and Director of Pronerve, Inc. Before that, he served as the President, CEO and Director of Liposcience, Inc. from 2003 to 2013. Other previous leadership roles including president of BD Diagnostics and president of BD Preanalytical Systems.”
We hope Brajer, who starts work in two weeks when Wos leaves, succeeds where she has not. She apparently did her best at this public service, including by taking only a token salary of $1 annually, but her best came up woefully short.
During the two-and-a-half years she has served as secretary, legislators of both parties, advocates and state audits have repeatedly pointed out flaws in the department’s delivery of service to some of our most vulnerable citizens. The problems have been in information technology, Medicaid spending and budgeting and food-stamp oversight. There have also been problems with the use of high-dollar consultants for daily functions, as the Journal’s Richard Craver reported.
Some legislators had called for Wos to resign or accept a subordinate role. But up until Wednesday, she stuck to her guns in defending her department’s oversight and effectiveness. The governor stood behind her to the end. Just this week, he had praised Wos and her agency for “prudent stewardship” in announcing the state Medicaid program had $130.7 million in cash in hand left over from fiscal 2014-15.
But as the Journal noted, six state audits since January 2013 have raised questions about the DHHS’ ability to operate elements of the state Medicaid program in an efficient, transparent and timely manner. To be fair, some of the audits covered DHHS operations that predated Wos.
But, in general, the problems under her leadership have been glaring, especially as House and Senate Republican leaders grapple with Medicaid reform and the DHHS’ role in that initiative.
We hope that Brajer will get the agency back on track.
With other personnel challenges in his administration, there’s a lot riding on this for the governor. But most important, there’s a lot riding on this for some of the state’s most vulnerable citizens, who deserve better service from the DHHS.