Saturday, March 14, 2020

Florida Senate confirms top doctor to fight coronavirus. He doesn’t have a background in public health. (SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL)

Compare the Florida Senate to the United States Senate and it is lacking in every particular. The U.S. Senate was called by Gladstone "the world's greatest deliberative body." What is Florida's Senate? A collection of hick hacks and sad sacks, led by dull Republicans, incapable of much critical thinking. At least the U.S. Senate asked questions about a turkey TRUMP named to be Surgeon General, resulting in withdrawal of the nomination.

Florida Senate confirms top doctor to fight coronavirus. He doesn’t have a background in public health.

Skyler Swisher
MAR 13, 2020 | 1:44 PM

Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees speaks about the new coronavirus, at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee. (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)

Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees speaks about the new coronavirus, at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee. (Tori Lynn Schneider/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)(Tori Lynn Schneider/AP)

Florida Surgeon General Scott Rivkees is leading the state’s fight against the new coronavirus, heading up the response to one of the biggest public health threats in generations.

But some Florida senators worry he lacks the public health credentials needed to do the job. He also faced questions during his confirmation hearings about a university sexual harassment investigation into comments he had made.
Despite that, the Florida Senate approved his nomination Friday in a 31-9 vote.
Sen. Kevin Rader, D-Boca Raton, said Rivkees has an excellent resume in pediatrics, but he doesn’t have the “extensive experience in public health” required by Florida law.

“He is an expert in pediatrics,” Rader said. "Public health, I don’t think so. His resume screams he is not an expert in public health administration.”
Rivkees’ supporters said he has demonstrated himself to be a capable leader, and Florida needs stability in its coronavirus response. Sen. Gayle Harrell, R-Stuart, said she worked closely with Rivkees on a Hepatitis A outbreak.
“We need his expertise in dealing with public health crises," she said. "We need his calm, cool leadership.”
Rivkees chaired the department of pediatrics at the University of Florida College of Medicine and served as physician-in-chief at UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital. He resigned those posts when he was appointed in April, but he continues to do academic work for the university.
Under the agreement, Rivkees spends 20% of his time teaching and working on federally funded research projects. The remainder of his time is devoted to his surgeon general duties, according to the University of Florida.
In January, before the coronavirus outbreak hit the United States, Rivkees told lawmakers he could handle both roles.
“Florida has a full-time surgeon general,” Rivkees said. “I have some academic activities at the University of Florida. These are attended to on weekends and nights. I am on the clock 24/7. If anybody ever needs me, I am here.”
Alberto Moscoso, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, didn’t respond to a message asking if Rivkees will give up his university duties to focus solely on the coronavirus pandemic.
In his confirmation hearing, Rivkees said his experience does include work on public health issues, dating back to his undergraduate work testing for lead poisoning. He said he also worked on newborn screening research. The only mention of public health experience on Rivkees’ resume is service on the Connecticut Academy of Science and Engineering Public Health Board.
As concerns about coronavirus mounted, Rivkees faced criticism for initially withholding from the public information about the number of people being tested and monitored for the disease. The Health Department didn’t send a representative to a meeting on coronavirus in Orlando held by U.S. Rep. Stephanie Murphy.
Senators listed other concerns. Rader said the deputy secretary position that is responsible for organizing 67 county health departments is vacant, and Rivkees didn’t fight for it to be filled. Sen. Lori Berman, D-Boynton Beach, said she was concerned by guidance given to passengers on a flight that landed at Palm Beach International Airport.
Somebody on the plane tested positive for coronavirus, but a health official told most of the passengers that they didn’t need to stay home and should just monitor themselves for symptoms.
“There are something like a hundred people walking around Palm Beach County who were not told to self-isolate. ... These people should have all been told to self-isolate,” Berman said. “I don’t feel like we in the state are doing the right thing.”
Rivkees has racked up impressive credentials during his career. He served as a professor and associate chair of pediatrics for research at the Yale University School of Medicine. Before that, he held appointments at Harvard Medical School and Indiana University.
But Rivkees has also faced questions about a 2014 sexual harassment complaint, which was first reported by the News Service of Florida. Rivkees was accused of making inappropriate comments, saying during meetings, “If we can’t agree on this we’ll all have to get naked in a hot-tub and work it out.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis said Rivkees came with stellar recommendations, but the Miami Herald and Tampa Bay Times spoke with several people who described him as a harsh manager fueled by vindictiveness.
Rivkees said those complaints stemmed from his revamping of the department.
“This ruffled the feathers of some faculty members who then launched a series of personal attacks against me and the university,” he told lawmakers. "That’s where these came from.”
Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, said Rivkees was thoroughly vetted, and Floridians can be confident in his ability to lead the state’s coronavirus response.
"One of the first thing that impressed me with this appointee was his calm. ... We need to call for some stability in our state,” Baxley said.
Skyler Swisher can be reached at, 561-243-6634 or @SkylerSwisher.

No comments: