Dr. DiOrio promoted after Ohio Ebola scare
P erhaps in part because of her excellent handling of the Ebola scare in Ohio, former state epidemiologist Dr. Mary DiOrio has been promoted. Gov. John Kasich has named her new medical director for the state Department of Health.
DiOrio and others did excellent work in ensuring Ohioans faced minimal risk from Ebola. But now, she may be wondering how on earth she is supposed to ward off similar threats in the future.
Health department officials never have been awash in money to deal with infectious diseases. During the 2011-12 fiscal year, the department’s budget for infectious disease protection and surveillance was just $93,136.
That beats the current budget line item: Zero. That’s right – nothing.
Clearly, state officials can shift funding around in the budget to deal with surprises such as Ebola. They did just that earlier this fall.
But infectious diseases – and there are many in addition to Ebola – are a serious public health threat.
No one likes to suggest government ought to spend more. In this case, however – perhaps by diverting funds from other programs – DiOrio and the health agency should be given more resources to safeguard Ohioans.
J ust a few weeks ago, the World Health Organization estimated it would cost $1 billion to control the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. President Barack Obama wants Congress to provide $6.2 billion to battle the disease.
The White House proposal includes money for infectious disease control programs and research in the United States, so it is somewhat different than the WHO plan.
Still, members of Congress should not give the president what amounts to a blank check. Money that could be used for other priorities – fighting other, more deadly diseases, for example – should not be frittered away in an Obama administration public relations program.
It should be obvious that Ebola needs to be defeated in West Africa. Equally clear is that the U.S. health care infrastructure needs to be improved to protect against infectious diseases. Lawmakers should provide only the funds needed to address those concerns effectively.