House plans hearings on DPH role in drug lab scandal

By Chelsea Sheasley, Metro West Daily News

BOSTON – House lawmakers have scheduled three public hearings to examine the Department of Public Health’s role in the state drug lab scandal that corrupted thousands of criminal drug cases and a breakdown at a Framingham compounding pharmacy that resulted in 28 meningitis deaths across the country.

“There has been a failure of government that has endangered both the public health and public safety of not only the citizens of Massachusetts, but citizens throughout the United States of America,” said state Rep. David Linksy, D-Natick, at a State House news conference Thursday.

Linsky, who chairs the House Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, was joined by Reps. Jeffrey Sánchez, D-Jamaica Plain, and Harold Naughton, D-Clinton, chairmen of public health and public safety committees.

The legislators vowed to determine how the incidences occurred in each case and what needs to change in the future.

“It’s time to go forward, it’s time to shed some light through the public hearing process,” Naughton said.

The first hearing, scheduled for Nov. 14 at the State House, will focus on the divisions, agencies and board responsible for pharmacy oversight in Massachusetts.

The list of witnesses will include Dr. JudyAnn Bigby, the secretary of the Health and Human Services, Dr. Lauren Smith, interim commissioner of the Department of Public Health, and Dr. Madeleine Biondolillo, director of the Bureau of Health Care Safety and Quality.

Members of the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Pharmacy and the division of Health Professionals Licensure have also been called to testify.

A second hearing, scheduled for Nov. 28, will examine supervision and procedures of the state drug laboratory.

A date has not been set for a third hearing that will focus on business and health care industry reaction to the oversight, regulatory actions and transparency of the Department of Public Health.

Sen. Mark Montigny, D-New Bedford, chair of the Senate Committee on Post Audit and Oversight, has also announced plans to conduct hearings but has not scheduled them yet.

Recommendations for new legislation or increased funding could come as a result of the hearings.

“We intend to get to the bottom of it so that when the Legislature reconvenes in January, we can recommend to our colleagues whatever legislative fixes are necessary,” said Linksy, who is running for re-election next week against Republican challenger Bill Callahan.

Hinton added that the committee chairs will consider whether Gov. Deval Patrick’s request Thursday for an additional $30 million to cover costs related to the state drug lab is enough.

“We will look at that as well,” he said. “How we are going to use that? Is that all we need or do we need to look for more in the next fiscal year?”

Investigators have said former drug lab chemist Annie Doohkan of Franklin admitted tampering with drug evidence in thousands of cases.

Link to the original post: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/x303002756/House-plans-hearings-on-DPH-role-in-drug-lab-scandal

Tags: ,