OKLAHOMA CITY- Interim Commissioner for the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) Preston Doerflinger held a press conference today at the Cleveland County Health Department to talk about the current financial picture for the agency and his plans for moving OSDH forward after being appointed interim commissioner of the agency less than a week ago.
Doerflinger started off the press conference by praising the employees at the agency for their dedication to serving the state and added that the majority of them had nothing to do with the current financial situation the agency is facing. He also reported that he had met with almost every OSDH employee in the past week and received constructive feedback for moving the agency forward.
“When I arrived at the agency last week I didn’t know what to expect. I am happy to report to my fellow citizens of Oklahoma that we absolutely have the right people in place to carry out the agency’s mission of providing health care services to our state,” said Doerflinger.
Next Doerflinger gave a brief overview of what actions put the agency in this financial situation and said he has identified over-expenditures beyond the agency’s annual revenue starting from approximately 2011 to the current fiscal year. Many different accounting tricks were employed to trade and borrow funds from different accounts and accounting periods were left open for multiple years. The actions were able to go undetected by submitting budgets which appeared to be balanced to the Office of Management and Enterprise Services.
“While these problems that have been uncovered are devastating to this agency, they are not insurmountable. We will fix these issues and I have a corrective plan of action that I shared with legislative leaders earlier today,” said Doerflinger.
The plan includes asking the Legislature to appropriate $30 million to the agency which will allow OSDH to meet payroll obligations and stop the growth of the current deficit. Doerflinger also plans to ask for a risk assessment from the State Auditor’s Office which will allow the agency to identify key target areas for additional performance audits.
Governor Mary Fallin has filed an Executive Order directing Doerflinger to establish a Joint Commission on Public Health to look at the public health system and identify ways to make it more lean, efficient and effective. The commission will be comprised of representatives from county health departments, OSDH staff, public health advocates and agency partners. It will start to work immediately and provide guidance on OSDH’s FY 19 budget.
Closing out the press conference, Doerflinger said, “We cannot allow this agency to fail. This agency is the health care safety net for this state and its citizens, from birth to death and countless times throughout a person’s lifetime. We must take the necessary steps to ensure that this vital work can continue.”