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Wos says she's trying to fix DHHS as fast as possible

Posted February 13, 2013

— Secretary of Health and Human Services Aldona Wos told lawmakers Wednesday that she walked into a department in disarray and is trying to clean up the mess as quickly as she can, adding that it will take time.

Speaking to a Joint Appropriations Committee, Wos and several of her assistants outlined problems they face, from outdated computer systems to key positions being unfilled to staff members consistently filing late reports.

"Things are really broken, but we are in the process and on the path to fixing it," Wos said.

Medicaid reform and upgrading information technology at DHHS are her top two priorities, she said.

A state audit released last month found that administrative costs for North Carolina's Medicaid program are much higher than other states' because of mismanagement and lax oversight.

"We will not have another audit report like we did two weeks ago," said Carol Steckel, whom Wos brought in from Louisiana to oversee Medicaid.

Joe Cooper, who is DHHS' new chief information officer, said he has already consolidated three IT units and plans to look at other ways to streamline and upgrade systems. He promised lawmakers that a new Medicaid billing system would go online in July as scheduled.

More than half of DHHS' deputy secretary positions and 20 physician slots in the department are vacant, and Wos said she's looking for qualified people. She said she also is cracking down on employees for turning in late, often incomprehensible reports.

She didn't comment on Dianna Lightfoot, who withdrew last week after being appointed to direct state pre-kindergarten programs. Questions were raised about Lightfoot's background as founder of a nonprofit that opposes public early childhood education programs.

Wos hasn't responded to questions about how she vetted Lightfoot, and she dodged reporters after the committee meeting, making a swift exit down the back stairs.

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  • happymom Feb 14, 6:55 p.m.

    Funny that she should mention the empty positions. One of her first acts as Secretary was to freeze hiring for all open positions in the department.

  • exteacher Feb 13, 5:06 p.m.

    She didn't comment on Dianna Lightfoot, who withdrew last week after being appointed to direct state pre-kindergarten programs. Questions were raised about Lightfoot's background as founder of a nonprofit that opposes public early childhood education programs.

    Wos hasn't responded to questions about how she vetted Lightfoot, and she dodged reporters after the committee meeting, making a swift exit down the back stairs.

    REALLY??? How shocking!! LOL.... No accountability here, nor from the governor, who denied any knowledge of Lightfoot's vetting or hiring. Way to not be accountable!

  • HeadsUp Feb 13, 5:04 p.m.

    The real excitement for Medicaid patients and providers will come this summer, when NCDHHS tries to launch its new Medicaid payment system -- the one slammed in a state audit last year, the same one Governor McCrory has said repeatedly might not work.

    The new payment system, twice its original price and two years behind schedule, is being created by a company the U.S. Air Force just ditched after concluding it spent $1B and got almost nothing for the taxpayers' money.

    Stock up on popcorn, friends, this one will be fun -- or tragic -- to watch.

  • wral mods blow close my account Feb 13, 2:29 p.m.

    "she dodged reporters after the committee meeting, making a swift exit down the back stairs."

    My Hero.

  • wral mods blow close my account Feb 13, 2:27 p.m.

    But but but I thought the dress code would solve everything.

  • wral mods blow close my account Feb 13, 2:23 p.m.

    "20 physician slots in the department are vacant, and Wos said she's looking for qualified people."

    Good luck finding qualified people who want to work for sub salaries and no raises. Unless "qualified" means a big campaign donor who deserves an 8% pay raise.

  • wral mods blow close my account Feb 13, 2:21 p.m.

    Wos was the person who vetted Lightfoot????

    God save us!

  • mntnmn69 Feb 13, 1:14 p.m.

    Welcome to state government! Had to chuckle when I heard your whining about the required legislative reports, lack of staff, and lack of resources. Look in the mirror -- its your friends in the GA who demand the info, cut the budgets, and YOU are the one who dismissed the top leadership on Day One. Now folks are likely hesitant to join DHHS or are retiring cause they are quickly learning what a train wreck this administration is already turning into. A word to the wise, you may want to get to know your staff on a more personal level and see the dedicated work they are doing, rather than throwing everyone under the bus.

  • unc70 Feb 13, 12:52 p.m.

    Remember they fired Lightfoot's predecessor and others immediately and without replacements. Staffing was already short because of budgeting and from those positions where people had left on their own at the end of the previous admin.

    Part of the current mess is in part of their own making, in part from actions by the previous GA. Cutting staff needed to complete and transition to the new system was shortsighted.

    BTW Consider trying to implement the computer system on the fly while the rules Bd specifications are in constant flux with every change to State and Federal law, policy, regulation, court ruling, and funding change.

  • Terkel Feb 13, 12:13 p.m.

    "More than half of DHHS' deputy secretary positions and 20 physician slots in the department are vacant, ..."

    And have been vacant for quite some time. Others are revolving doors. IDK whether the boys are knowingly using the jobs as stepping stones or whether they get soured their first week, but I can tell you they're giving up six figures and sweet benes if they leave before 5 years, so draw your own conclusions.