MA Secretary of HSS Under Fire for Drug Crises

Massachusetts House Republican leaders are calling on Governor Deval Patrick’s health and human services secretary to resign. This follows the evidence tampering scandal at a state crime lab and a meningitis outbreak linked to a state-regulated pharmacy in Framingham.

House Republican leader Brad Jones says Judy Ann Bigby was too slow in responding to the problems at the state drug lab and the compounding pharmacy and she does not have the management skills to deal with the fallout:

“While many people down the chain if you will have been put on administrative leave, have been let go, and even face criminal prosecution, serious questions remain about the ability of the current secretary to address the situation at hand and lead the agency going forward.”
On Wednesday, Bigby testified at a legislative oversight hearing about the problems at the state drug lab, which was under the umbrella of her secretariat.  Lawmakers pressed her on how the problems could have been allowed to go on for so long.  Bigby acknowledged serious lapses that have now led to the release of nearly 200 defendants and has put tens of thousands of criminal cases in jeopardy.  But she mostly blamed the mess on a single rogue chemist:
“Ultimately, even with checks and balances, excellent policies and procedures — if an individual decides to behave in this way, I don’t know that that can always be prevented.”

Republicans are expressing frustration over her answers:

“The testimony was uninspiring, lacking, I would say less than forthcoming.”

Bigby testified earlier in the month about the lack of oversight at the compounding pharmacy in Framingham, which was regulated by an agency under her purview.  The pharmacy produced the tainted injections that have killed 32 people and sickened 460 others.

Bigby is defending herself in a written statement, saying that both crises are “tragic and unacceptable, and that people have been held accountable for these lapses.”  And the administration is taking action to ensure that these events are never allowed to happen again. A spokesperson for the governor says Bigby has the Governor’s full support.

Bigby is Patrick’s longest serving cabinet member. She has been working closely with HIM on the Massachusetts health care overhaul and its implementation.- one of the Governor’s top priorities.