© 2021 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations
News

Acton Was Second High-Level Departure From Ohio Department Of Health In A Week

Dr. Mark Hurst, who retired as the assistant director of the Ohio Department of Health speaks on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Columbus.
Andrew Welsh-Huggins
/
AP
Dr. Mark Hurst, who retired as the assistant director of the Ohio Department of Health speaks on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Columbus.

The surprise resignation of Ohio Department of Health director Dr. Amy Acton on Thursday was the second departure from the department in just a week.

The first was assistant director and medical director Dr. Mark Hurst, who retired a few days before.

Hurst is a psychiatrist had been appointed by Acton last year. Before that, he'd headed up the state's Mental Health and Drug Addiction Services agency under former Gov. John Kasich.

Dr. Mary Kate Francis will serve as the state's interim medical director. She’s also a carryover from Kasich administration, and served as assistant medical director for the department.

Another holdover is Lance Himes, who takes Acton’s place as the director of the health department. Himes is an attorney, and while he doesn't have medical experience, he was health director twice before, after Kasich’s health directors left in 2014 and in 2017.

There's been no specific reason given for Acton's departure, and the governor's office said Hurst's retirement wasn't related to Acton's resignation.

However these departures fit a trend occuring in other states since the coronavirus pandemic hit. A recent study from Kaiser Health News and the Associated Press found that in 13 states, at least 27 state and local health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April.

NPR found public health officials are facing harassment and even threats as they try to perform contact tracing, a tool that's been used around the world for years to contain the spread of infection and illness, such as tuberculosis, smallpox and sexually transmitted diseases.

The Ohio House passed a bill to require written consent for contact tracing. The Senate rejected that bill, they did approve a bill that required some form of permission, though it could be granted over the phone.