NYC health commissioner resigns, slams de Blasio's coronavirus handling

COVID-19 News and Information

ByEyewitness News WABC logo
Wednesday, August 5, 2020
NYC health commissioner resigns, slams mayor's COVID response
New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot resigned on Tuesday, expressing her "deep disappointment" with the de Blasio administration's handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot resigned on Tuesday, expressing her "deep disappointment" with the de Blasio administration's handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

Barbot, in the resignation letter she submitted Tuesday morning, said the Health Department's expertise was not sufficiently tapped.

"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."

Her letter continued: "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."

When asked why Barbot resigned, de Blasio said "it became clear it was time for a change," while stressing it was "not obviously about one thing."

"We need an atmosphere of unity, of common purpose, and people really focusing on all the parts of this government working together," he added, possibly referring to the division between the Health Department and NYC Health + Hospitals, which runs the city's public hospital system.

"What I'm saying was, it became clear that there was a need to move forward,' de Blasio said.

The mayor quickly named Dr. Dave A. Chokshi, who has held numerous leadership roles at NYC Health + Hospitals, to replace Barbot.

Chokshi reacted to his new role on Twitter.

Back in March during the beginning of the pandemic, Barbot got into a "heated exchange" with an NYPD top cop.

The exchange took place when NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan requested half a million surgical masks for officers as the city was working to distribute health supplies to health care workers.

However, part of the conversation was leaked, prompting some officials to call for the dismissal of Dr. Oxiris Barbot.

Barbot released the following statement back in May:

"The members of the NYPD fight valiantly every day to keep New Yorkers safe. In mid-March, I was asked to provide the NYPD with a half million N-95 masks, while masks and other PPE were in terribly short supply. I wished we had sufficient numbers to meet their full request and were ultimately able to partially fulfill what was sought. This regrettably led to an argument in which words were exchanged between a police official and myself. I apologized to that police official then and today, I apologize to the NYPD for leaving any impression whatsoever that I don't have utmost respect for our police department, which plays a critical role on the frontlines each and every day to keep our city safe."

Now with Barbot's resignation, de Blasio wasted no time in appointing Chokshi to replace her.

Chokshi has served at the highest level of local, state, and federal health agencies, including NYC Health + Hospitals, where he was in senior leadership roles over the past six years. As Chief Population Health Officer, Dr. Chokshi's team transformed healthcare delivery for over one million New Yorkers. Most recently, he served as a key leader in the City's COVID-19 response.

"Dr. Chokshi has spent his career fighting for those too often left behind," de Blasio said. "Never has that been more true than during the COVID-19 pandemic, where he has helped lead our City's public health system under unprecedented challenges. I know he's ready to lead the charge forward in our fight for a fairer and healthier city for all."

"I couldn't be prouder of our City's response in the face of a once-in-a-lifetime public health crisis," said Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Dave A. Chokshi. "I'm honored to serve the people of New York City with the extraordinary team at the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Together, we will emerge from this pandemic as a stronger, fairer, and healthier city."

Dr. Chokshi served as a White House Fellow in the Obama Administration and was the principal health advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. In 2016, President Obama appointed him to the Advisory Group on Prevention, Health Promotion, and Integrative and Public Health.

Dr. Chokshi will continue his clinical practice at Bellevue Hospital, where he has taken care of patients as a primary care physician since 2014. He trained at the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and Brigham & Women's Hospital/Harvard Medical School. During his training, Dr. Chokshi did clinical work in Guatemala, Peru, Botswana, Ghana, and India.

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