Local News

DHHS secretary won't serve under Perdue

Posted December 3, 2008

— Governor-elect Perdue says Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Dempsey Benton won't be serving in her administration for long.

Perdue said Wednesday that she has been "looking aggressively" across the nation for the right candidate to lead the state's troubled health care system.

Although she wouldn't say whether the decision for Dempsey to step down was a mutual agreement – "You can speak to the secretary himself. I'm not going to speak for Dempsey Benton" – she said he has agreed to stay on to help with the transition to his replacement.

"Secretary Benton has done a really good job of trying to fix the problems and make the train work again," she said. "He has come into a situation that seemed to be broken when he took over, and he's trying as hard as he can and has been forthright."

Benton could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Gov. Mike Easley appointed Benton to the position last year to succeed former Secretary Carmen Hooker Odom, who left to serve as the head of a New York-based health research foundation.

Benton was chief deputy secretary for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources prior to his appointment.

Some state lawmakers and mental health care advocacy groups say Benton inherited a troubled system.

In recent months, the department has come under scrutiny because of problems at the state's mental hospitals, including the April 29 death of Cherry Hospital patient Steven Sabock, who was neglected for 22 hours before he died.

Benton has taken steps over the past year to overhaul the system, including having more worker accountability.

Following an investigation into Sabock's death, Benton ordered further disciplinary review of the workers involved and closed the ward where Sabock stayed.

"He's been very open and has faced the questions and challenges we've given him to face," Perdue said of Benton.


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  • DontLikeTheSocialistObama Dec 5, 2008

    Can you say "politics".

  • CozyCake Dec 4, 2008

    DHHS is a lot more than hospitals. There are many people doing worthy work that you never hear about. The idea of throwing out the whole department would be damaging to the well being of children to the elderly. It is a large diverse department that has parts that work pretty well. You can tell that by what you don't see in the news.It is truly a minority that is messing things up.

  • kandy Dec 4, 2008

    Maybe Dr Phil can help the state fix this mess!

  • LL4U Dec 4, 2008

    Talk about status quo - the only thing good ol' Bev will be doing as Gov is whatever Marc and Tony tell her to do. Nothing changes - I'm sorry McCrory didn't get elected.

  • G-man Dec 4, 2008

    There is probably a lot of state employees that wouldn't serve under her if they didn't have too.

  • amyrn Dec 4, 2008

    You can't blame Mr. Benton for all the problems. Can you say Carmen Hooker Odum?

  • independent_thinker Dec 4, 2008

    "You can expect one thing from Government run health services and that is a third-rate incompetent system. "

    Private health care has an administrative expense ratio of 30%. Medicare has an expense ratio of 3%, or one-tenth the cost of private insurance.

    Healthcare outcomes in the US cost 40% more than other developed nations. Female life expectancy in this country in the 1940's? # 1 in the world. Now? # 29. Our rate of vacinnation? We're in line with Botswana, a 3rd world nation.

    Overpriced, poor health care outcomes, and keeping up with the 3rd world. Why would anyone want to pull their head from the sand and change this system?

  • OLD PIRATE 2 Dec 4, 2008

    Could WRAL have worded the headline alittle better?

  • are you kidding me Dec 4, 2008

    So, there is no one in North Carolina that can run this organization? We need to scour the country for a person to fill this position! OMG more money for head hunter fees!

  • pbjbeach Dec 4, 2008