McManus Lays Out Three Priorities for Health Department
Baker issues a statement defending his actions. Are city hospitals going to close?
In a brief presentation before the Common Council’s Public Safety and Health Committee, Patricia McManus noted that plenty of challenges remain, but that she is encouraged. “I’m more hopeful in there than I was before in there,” said the city’s first female African-American health commissioner.
She also revealed that the State of Wisconsin Department of Health Services will be conducting a “program review” of the department’s troubled Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. “That’s right in line with what I’m going to be doing as well,” said McManus.
The state review comes just weeks after the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development conducted a review of the program and issued a stop order until corrective actions are made.
McManus’s Top Three Tasks
In response to a question from committee chair Alderman Robert Donovan, the longtime public health advocate laid out three priorities guiding her work with the beleaguered department.
First, she must deal with the issues related to the failure to send out hundreds of letters and conduct home visits as part of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. The city has already resent the letters, but McManus now finds herself part of an investigation into the practices of department personnel.
Second, she must work with city staff to get the department’s lead poisoning prevention program back into compliance with federal. HUD’s Midwest Regional Administrator Joseph P. Galvan said at an event last week that while the stop-work order does halt the program, he doesn’t anticipate any permanent impact in his department’s relationship with Milwaukee.
Third, McManus says she must conduct a thorough review of the rest of the department. The commissioner, a registered nurse who has a doctorate in urban studies from UW-Milwaukee, said that her basis in system-based thinking leads her to believe that if severe issues are present in the lead program, there are likely issues elsewhere.
Ald. Chantia Lewis added “all of this, I’ll say it publicly, it doesn’t fall on the last commissioner. This was not just a one-man show.” McManus deferred on going into greater detail in public, a route also taken by Mayor Tom Barrett given the on-going personnel investigation.
Bevan Baker Issues a Statement
Baker states “given the scope and complexity of the ongoing work, I cannot predict when the investigation will be finished. However, it is my sincere belief that the results of the investigation, when it is completed, will confirm that upon my direction, necessary action was taken to identify mismanagement and hold individuals accountable. In addition, the investigation will find that I followed City of Milwaukee protocol by initiating disciplinary action and informing executive leadership about this issue.”
Baker also stated there was no such “communications gag order” in place, a fact introduced by Health Department staffers Angela Hagy and Sandra Rotar last month. The council has since introduced legislation to ban gag orders.
Donovan isn’t buying Baker’s claim on the gag order. He told Fox 6: “I read it. It was in writing. Certainly, under his tenure. It’s difficult for him to back away from that. The more we peel back this onion, the more challenges and more problems we seem to uncover. We intend to get to the truth in this whole thing.”
The pursuit of the truth is also of interest to Ald. Mark Borkowski. Referencing Baker’s claim that he told “executive leadership” of the issues, Borkowski said “what that says is someone is not being honest.”
“I got to believe there is some kind of paper trail that either answers this truthfully, or its either bald face lie,” said Borkowski. He challenged McManus, along with the independently-elected City Attorney, to get to the bottom of the issue.
Hospital Closures on the Horizon
Borkowski also asked McManus about looming issues with city hospitals. “We have some hospitals in the city of Milwaukee that are hemorrhaging money and they may or may not want to stay in the city,” said the alderman.
Borkowski said his sources tell him that Ascension has lost $50 million annually in recent years from Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital, St. Joseph Hospital and St. Francis Hospital.
“I haven’t heard anything recently, but I can’t say I’m surprised,” said McManus. She noted that the large networks continue to do well, but that “central access” facilities have been challenged for some time. She suggested they might want to go into closed session to discuss such issues.
“From a moral standpoint, I understand closed and open session and that kind of stuff, but I’ll be damned if I’m going to sit back and let some corporate head say ‘You know what? too bad so sad, the health of our community takes a second or third priority.’ That’s just morally wrong. Okay? And so, I’m here to tell I’m not going to go into closed session so they’re all protected. They need to know that they’re going to be called out,” said Borkwoski.
Donovan promised to bring a communication file forward on the issue in the future.
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More about the Lead Service Lines
- Milwaukee’s Young Children Need to Be the Focus - Ald. Mark Borkowski - Sep 24th, 2018
- City Hall: Baker To Testify Before Common Council - Jeramey Jannene - Sep 14th, 2018
- Warning Residents of Lead Dangers - Jenny Whidden - Jul 18th, 2018
- Governor Walker Administration Awards More Than $26 Million for Lead Service Line Replacement in 42 Wisconsin Communities - Gov. Scott Walker - Jul 18th, 2018
- Environmental Review of City of Milwaukee Project for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Jul 9th, 2018
- Environmental review of City of Milwaukee project for the Safe Drinking Water Loan Program (SDWLP) - Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources - Jun 26th, 2018
- Common Council approves full lead hazard review for city-owned properties - Ald. Jose Perez - May 8th, 2018
- Legislation mandates lead water lines replacement at child care facilities - Ald. Milele Coggs - Apr 26th, 2018
- Child Care Centers Still Have Lead Pipes - Edgar Mendez - Apr 23rd, 2018
- Legislation looks to local source for water infrastructure needs - Ald. Milele Coggs - Apr 4th, 2018
- ‘10thirtysix ’ to re-ring the alarm bell on milwaukee’s lead crisis - Milwaukee PBS - Mar 27th, 2018
- Chief of Staff Comment on FLAC - Patrick Curley - Mar 22nd, 2018
- Evers Demands Action on Wisconsin’s Drinking Water Crisis - Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Evers - Mar 21st, 2018
- Op Ed: How City Should Solve Lead in Water - Noelle Chesley, Anne Dressel, John Berges, and Helen Meier - Mar 2nd, 2018
- Alderman Bohl: A better strategy is needed in dealing with lead laterals - Ald. Jim Bohl - Feb 26th, 2018
- City Hall: McManus Lays Out Three Priorities for Health Department - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 23rd, 2018
- Governor Walker Signs Leading on Lead Act into Law - Gov. Scott Walker - Feb 21st, 2018
- City Hall: Mayor Allows Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 15th, 2018
- City Hall: Will Mayor Confirm Health Commissioner? - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 14th, 2018
- City Hall: HUD Halts City Lead Treatment Program - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 12th, 2018
- From Dr. Patricia McManus: Comments clarified - Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton - Feb 9th, 2018
- Comments by newly appointed interim Health Department commissioner troubling - Ald. Michael Murphy - Feb 9th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Appoints McManus Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 6th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Withdraws Nannis Nomination - Jeramey Jannene - Feb 5th, 2018
- FLAC Calls on Common Council to Confirm Dr. Patricia McManus as Interim Health Commissioner - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Feb 3rd, 2018
- Silence is Complicity – If You See Something, Please Say Something - Ald. Milele Coggs - Feb 2nd, 2018
- Gag Order for Health Department Employees Lifted by Mayor - Ald. Bob Donovan - Feb 1st, 2018
- Resolution Aims to Take Down Milwaukee Health Department’s Restrictive Communication Policy - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Feb 1st, 2018
- Common Council Alerts At-Risk Populations of Lead Risks After City of Milwaukee Health Department Fails to Notify Public - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 31st, 2018
- Key Details Missing from the Mayor’s Account of Lead Testing Crisis - Ald. Khalif Rainey - Jan 31st, 2018
- What We Really Need: Answers - Ald. Russell Stamper, II - Jan 31st, 2018
- The Administration has Lost the Common Council’s Confidence in Addressing the Lead Issue - Ald. Jose Perez - Jan 30th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: City Report Finds Health Dept. Problems - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 30th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Could Reject Interim Health Leader - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 30th, 2018
- Aldermen Ask City Attorney for Legality of Paul Nannis’ position - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 29th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: $750 Million to Replace Lead Pipes - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 24th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Responds to Lead Crisis - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 23rd, 2018
- Legislation seeks lead service line replacement for city-owned properties - Ald. Bob Bauman - Jan 19th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Grills Mayor, City Health Staff - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 17th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Council Launches Health Dept. Probe - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 17th, 2018
- Resolution calls for Milwaukee Water to give public lead updates - Ald. Tony Zielinski - Jan 17th, 2018
- Commissioner Baker’s departure leaves us all with many, many questions - Ald. Bob Donovan - Jan 16th, 2018
- Eyes on Milwaukee: Barrett Ousts Bevan Baker Over Lead Fiasco - Jeramey Jannene - Jan 12th, 2018
- Health Department mistakes worsen city’s lead crisis - Ald. Mark Borkowski - Jan 12th, 2018
- Council set to act on Health Department crisis - Milwaukee Common Council - Jan 12th, 2018
- Freshwater For Life Action Coalition (FLAC) to Hold Press Conference After Announcement Of Firing Health Commissioner Bevan Baker - Freshwater For Life Action Coalition - Jan 12th, 2018
- Is City Dragging Feet on Lead Filters? - Jabril Faraj and Elliot Hughes - Jan 3rd, 2018
- Common Council Strengthens Lead Standards - Jabril Faraj - Dec 5th, 2017
- One Step Closer to Tackling Wisconsin’s Lead Crisis - State Sen. Chris Larson - Oct 31st, 2017
- Advocates Push City On Lead Pipes - Jabril Faraj - Oct 25th, 2017
- Lead Poisoning a “Public Health Crisis” - Jabril Faraj - Jul 19th, 2017
- National Water Expert Retracts Criticism of City Health Department - City of Milwaukee Health Department - Jul 14th, 2017
- Governor Walker Announces 35 Municipalities to Receive a Total of $13.8 Million to Remove Lead Service Lines - Gov. Scott Walker - Jun 28th, 2017
- Campaign Cash: WMC Opposes Lead Pipes Bill - Wisconsin Democracy Campaign - Apr 20th, 2017
- Op Ed: State Action Needed on Lead Pipes Problem - Chris Walker - Mar 12th, 2017
- Murphy’s Law: How Milwaukee Handled “Flint” Crisis - Bruce Murphy - Jan 19th, 2017
- Tainted Water: State’s Failures On Lead Pipes - Cara Lombardo and Dee J. Hall - Jan 15th, 2017
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