NYC health commissioner resigns over city pandemic response

Oxiris Barbot, MD, commissioner of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, resigned Aug. 4 over disagreements related to the city's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The New York Times reports.

Dr. Barbot has served as the city's health commissioner since 2018.

In her resignation email sent to Mayor Bill de Blasio, a copy of which was shared with the Times, she expressed "deep disappointment" about the city's COVID-19 efforts.

"I leave my post today with deep disappointment that during the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime, that the health department's incomparable disease control expertise was not used to the degree it could have been," she wrote, according to the newspaper.

"Our experts are world renowned for their epidemiology, surveillance and response work. The city would be well served by having them at the strategic center of the response not in the background."

Dr. Barbot's departure came after Mr. de Blasio announced May 8 that New York City-based NYC Health + Hospitals, rather than the health department, would lead the city's effort to track cases and contacts. At the time, the mayor said the city's test and trace corps would comprise public health experts to "lead the way in creating testing and tracing."

The health department has spent decades performing such tracing, according to the Times.

When contacted by Becker's, the health department referred to an internal message Dr. Barbot sent staff, announcing that she has submitted her formal resignation.  

"Your experience and guidance have been the beacon leading this city through this historic pandemic and that to successfully brace against the inevitable second wave, your talents must be better leveraged alongside that of our sister agencies," she wrote. "I have every confidence that you, the committed individuals of this agency, will continue to dedicate yourselves to protecting the health of all New Yorkers during this unprecedented public health emergency."

Dave Chokshi, MD, a primary care internist at Bellevue Hospital and clinical associate professor of population health and medicine at the NYU School of Medicine, has been tapped as Dr. Barbot's successor. Dr. Chokshi served in leadership roles at NYC Health + Hospitals for six years.


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