The head of New York City’s health department made headlines this week when she stepped down following a public dispute with Democrat Mayor Bill de Blasio.
In a resignation email quoted by The New York Times, Public Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who was appointed by de Blasio in 2018, took issue with the mayor’s decision to put hospitals in charge of contact tracing rather than her agency. She wrote that she resigned “with deep disappointment” as the city faced “the most critical public health crisis in our lifetime” compounded by a botched local response.
The “incomparable disease control expertise” of the agency was at the city’s disposal but “was not used to the degree it could have been,” she added.
“The beacon leading this city”
“Our experts are world renowned for their epidemiology, surveillance and response work,” the resigning public health commissioner contended, according to the Times.
Though her criticism of de Blasio and other city leaders was clear, Barbot reserved high praise for the staff of the department she has led since 2018. She characterized their “experience and guidance” as “the beacon leading this city through this historic pandemic.”
Barbot also asserted that their “talents must be better leveraged alongside that of our sister agencies” as New York City attempts to “successfully brace against the inevitable second wave” of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It has been an honor and privilege to serve at the helm of an agency with its long and distinguished history in promoting and protecting New Yorkers’ health through ordinary times and during some of the most challenging moments in our city’s history,” she wrote, as the Times reported.
“Based on speed and intensity and precision”
As for the mayor, the Washington Examiner reported that de Blasio justified his controversial move by insisting that “[e]verything at Health and Hospitals has been based on speed and intensity and precision, and they’ve done an amazing job.”
Barbot has courted controversy in the past, notably with her resistance to a request that would equip local police with face masks and reported declaration that she did not “give two rats’ asses” about officers, as reported by the New York Post.
An anonymous ally who said it was “very painful” for her to step down from her “dream job” at the helm of the agency also defended her comments about masks for police.
“How could you agree in good conscience…to give the police department this gear when the hospitals don’t have enough?” the source asked.
Whatever Barbot’s position on various issues impacting the health of New Yorkers, it is clear that the city’s mayor is dealing with his share of backlash from across the political spectrum.