Local News

New DHHS secretary: Quality of care has to be focus

Posted February 3, 2009 6:18 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— If perception is reality, it's the job of new Health and Human Services Secretary Lanier Cansler to fix a broken system.

"The top priority, I guess, has to be to recreate a trust and confidence in this agency that, to a great degree, has been lost over the years," Cansler said Tuesday.



Cansler, a former deputy secretary for the department, is taking over a system plagued by abuse and neglect at its psychiatric hospitals. Last year, two of the three state facilities came under scrutiny at some point for their handling of patients.

At one hospital, a patient died after he sat nearly 24 hours untreated.

"Quality of care has to be our focus," Cansler said.

He believes systemic problems stem from a lack of leadership, training and accountability.

To help achieve his goals, Cansler says he is creating a zero-tolerance policy.

"We're going to really take a hard line that if we understand there's abuse or neglect of a patient, then we're going to remove the employee or employees," Cansler said.

"If we find the abuse and neglect did not occur, then we can reinstate. But we're not going to allow (employees) in our hospitals to mistreat patients."

Cansler also says that improving patient care will require higher salaries for hospital staff and management.

"It does not mean you have to have new dollars for everything," he said. "It means, sometimes, you have to reallocate or leverage existing dollars and find ways to do it."