By Matt Murphy
State House News Service
BOSTON - House Republican leaders today are calling for Gov. Deval Patrick's health and human services secretary to resign following an evidence tampering scandal at a state run drug lab that has compromised thousands of criminal convictions and failed oversight of a Framingham compounding pharmacy that led to a national outbreak of fungal meningitis.
House Minority Leader Brad Jones and members of his leadership team sent a letter to Patrick expressing their lack of confidence in Bigby to successfully manage the troubling situations, which both involve the Department of Public Health, an agency under Bigby’s oversight.
Bigby has testified twice this month before lawmakers during oversight hearings looking into the problems at the former Department of Public Health drug lab in Jamaica Plain and pharmacy industry oversight. While she has acknowledged that managers and regulators in both cases missed red flags and opportunities to limit the scope and spread of problems, she has told lawmakers that much of blame falls on the individuals involved in the wrongdoing.
Bigby has also tried to highlight the steps the Patrick administration has taken after the fact to remove managers and impose emergency regulations to improve oversight of the lab and by the Board of Registration in Pharmacy.
“We have eagerly awaited your administration’s testimony over the last few weeks and after the past two public hearings our conclusion has become abundantly clear. Poor management has allowed these problems to escalate, and it will take a strong and effective manager to solve them,” the representatives wrote in the letter to Patrick. “While we recognize that Secretary Bigby holds a deep knowledge in the health care field, her conduct and subsequent comments demonstrate a lack of management skills required for this daunting task."
The significant costs of the drug lab scandal are still piling up and are not known at this point, but come at a time when revenues needed to support the fiscal 2013 budget have fallen more than a quarter billion dollars short of estimates. Patrick and his budget aides are mulling midyear budget cuts.
Bigby and Public Safety Secretary Mary Beth Heffernan were noncommittal Wednesday when asked if they intended to remain on in the administration for the governor’s last two years in office. All top level Patrick administration staff are considering whether they want to re-up through 2014.
Bigby is the governor’s longest-serving Cabinet member, joining the administration at the start in 2007.