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Loss of Ohio health chief marks third high-profile Kasich departure this year

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In early January, Gov. John R. Kasich's appointment to run the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency dropped out of sight overnight.

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An early cabinet member pick, Scott Nally was super confident of his abilities. But he left his EPA post under a fog, saying in his letter that his appointed position "is not forever" and that "we know when to step aside and pass the banner to the next leader to carry on the task."

An equally foggy explanation for departing was given Tuesday in Columbus, when Gov. Kasich, who is expected to file his official reelection papers today, announced that Ohio Department of Health Director Dr. Ted Wymyslo has decided to return to private medical practice and will step down at the end of February.

In a statement that praised Wymyslo in much the same tone that Nally was thanked for his work, Team Kasich communicators said the administration has made strides "because we’re putting the needs of people first, and we’re being good stewards of Ohioans’ resources."

In Nally's case, links between run-ins with coal companies about issues including water-pollution permits are said by some as reasons why Kasich dumped his former wrestler EPA chief. Kasich communicators said only that he is pursuing "other opportunities."

In Wymyslo's case, returning to private practice wasn't a convincing reason for some who sense other factors at work.

"I can’t help but wonder whether the timing of Dr. Wymyslo’s departure indicates that he wasn’t moving fast enough to close abortion clinics to satisfy Governor Kasich and his anti-choice allies," said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

Copeland scoffed at Kasich's claims to put people first when it comes to health care. She said the governor "has enacted more restrictions on women’s health care than any governor in memory—everything from closing abortion clinics to defunding family planning centers [Planned Parenthood]."

Kasich has put politics before patient safety, she said, speculating that Wymyslo may not have been willing to go along with Kasich’s "extremist agenda anymore." Gov. Kasich's last biennial budget included drastic changes to the deliver of health services to women that were never discussed in legislative committee but stuffed into the biggest spending blueprint in state history in a closed-door meeting. Provisions Gov. Kasich could have vetoed but did not, requires all ambulatory surgical centers to have transfer agreements with hospitals and grants authority to the state health director to determine what constitutes a valid transfer agreement, or variance, for any reason.

Gov. Kasich's budget singles out and blocks public hospitals from having transfer agreements or allowing their doctors to use their admitting privileges to contract with abortion clinics, like the one Wymyslo shuttered in Cincinnati by denying a request for waiver.

When Gov. Kasich was asked by one reporter recently about the clinic's closing, his terse and evasive 24-second answer was to admonish clinics to "follow the law."

When asked about following the law, as Kasich cryptically told a room full of reporters the Cincinnati Clinic should do, Copeland told CGE via email, "I suppose it is easy to follow the laws you create, especially when you ignore the ones you don’t (i.e. Roe v. Wade)."

Copeland was asked if any extant research can link harsh social environments for women to the business climate. "I’m not aware of any research in that area, but I have anecdotally heard that medical students have been choosing to practice in other states because of Ohio’s political climate towards OB/Gyns," Copeland said.

She wonders if Dr. Wymyslo was under political pressure to close abortion clinics. He was a family physician and educator in Montgomery County before joining the Kasich Administration, which said a new director will be announced by the end of February.

Separately, a new study shows the US abortion rate fell by 13 percent from 2008 to 2011 to a new low. The study, released by the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-abortion-rights think tank, concluded that nearly 1.1 million abortions took place in the United States in 2011, some 700,000 fewer than in 2008.

In another curious tale of a public servant quitting a well-paid job, Todd A. Snitchler, a Kasich appointee to chair the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, resigned about a week after Nally left his leadership post. A former Ohio House Member before Gov. Kasich taped him for the PUCO, Snitchler bowed out suddenly, echoing statements by Nally and Wymyslo that he enjoyed his time in pubic service but will work in the private sector, even though he doesn't know what lies ahead.

Annual salaries for Kasich's three appointees was $134,000 annually for Nally, $147,845 annually for Wymyslo and $124,500 for Snitchler.

The news article Loss of Ohio health chief marks third high-profile Kasich departure this year appeared first on Columbus Government Examiner.

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