Wos inherited mess at DHHS

Published September 11, 2013

by Jackie Wieland, Greensboro, letter to News and Observer, September 11,2013.

Regarding your Sept. 7 editorial "Sweet deal": Why are you creating a scandal about the hiring practices of the Department of Health and Human Services? Prior to the swearing in of Gov. Pat McCrory, serious budget deficits existed, including Medicaid overruns of $1.4 billion.

That number should scare every single resident. Bottom line: An executive leadership team had to be put into place immediately given that the state auditor’s report was very clear about the severity of the operational, technical and financial deficiencies at DHHS.

New DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos walked into a total mess. She agreed to take this position for $1 per year. It is hard to believe that our largest state department had no CFO or CIO managing a budget of $18 billion and a staff of more than 16,000 employees. In terms of communication, nearly one-third of DHHS employees had no email available when Wos took over (over 90 percent now have access). In addition, the Office of Internal Audit was a year behind in completing its scheduled performance audits.

You should congratulate the governor and secretary for quickly putting together an executive team that has tremendous operational, logistical and financial experience. These short-term consulting contracts during this turnaround stage are significantly cheaper than hiring full-time employees with long-term health care and pension benefits.

In the business world, net income and return on investment are vital figures calculated to determine cost effectiveness. Creating controversy by questioning a contract that costs $125 per hour rather than questioning the results is amateurish.

In the few months since Wos and her team took over DHHS leadership, they have cut $1 million annually by allowing salary flexibility for health care professionals, cut $1.8 million in consolidation of offices and saved $3 million by getting the NCTracks up and running ahead of schedule. It is anticipated that there will be an additional $7 million in IT savings under the new CIO.

The innuendoes of impropriety against New Breed Logistics are absurd. Yes, Joe Hauck was employed at New Breed, which Wos’ husband runs, and, yes, he has given money to conservative, pro-free-market candidates, but insinuations that there is some ethical line being crossed by his consulting for the state are perplexing. It is not a new concept for executives to hire people they know and trust with strong operational and financial skills.

Sadly, the message sent by the media is that successful and talented private-sector employees who add value to our struggling state’s health care system and overall economy should stay away from state government.

Wieland served on the transition team for the governor’s Tax Reform Commission.

September 13, 2013 at 5:28 pm
Jeff Egerton says:

I would say Ms. Wieland is a bit biased. Even if a "mess was inherited", the missteps by the current DHHS Secretary (and lack of leadership by the Governor) have exacerbated this issue. Just because the person running a "business" only receives a dollar salary does not indicate they have the ability; if she was receiving a true salary she might actually be accountable to the taxpayers.