Mississippians should be relieved that the reconstituted state Board of Health has tapped an experienced, trusted hand to lead the Department of Health, but new State Health Officer Dr. Ed Thompson has big hurdles ahead.
As detailed in The Clarion-Ledger’s series “Public Health: Protect or neglect?” last year, and in 30 hours of state Senate committee hearings the series prompted, Mississippi’s focus on protecting the public suffered.
Under Amy, the bureaucracy was bloated while those actually doing the nursing and fixing were neglected until budget cuts and attrition took their toll. Since 2003, the department has seen the number of nurses and disease specialists plummet, which Thompson says has led to the rise in sexually transmitted diseases, tuberculosis and the state’s abysmal rate of infant mortality.
As a result of these worsening issues, which he has seen since being named interim health officer, Thompson has asked the Legislature for a $16.4 million bump in its $36.9 million budget. That’s almost a 45 percent increase.