Corbett names Wolf to head health department

Gov. Corbett today nominated  acting health secretary Michael Wolf to permanently fill the post vacated last October. 

Michael Wolf, 46, of Enola, joined the administration in May 2011 as executive deputy secretary after serving as a public relations official with drug giant Pfizer Inc.

Wolf will lead an agency that employs 1,700 people and has an annual budget of $838 million. It responsible for regulating health care facilities, promoting health education and monitoring infectious diseases.

Wolf must be confirmed by the Senate.

Wolf's predecessor, Eli Avila, left under a cloud after a series of embarrassing incidents, including a dust-up over an egg sandwich at a local diner that led to a lawsuit by the diner owner, Richard Hanna.

That suit over allegations that Avila tried to derail Hanna's bid to handle food service in the Capitol cafeteria - charges Avila denies - is still active in Commonwealth Court.

Avila also caused a stir when he demanded the bloodmobile vacate his Capitol parking space during a blood drive and tried to order Health Department insignia jackets and badges with public money.

The Corbett administration in a press release touted the Department of Health's efforts to modernize Pennsylvania’s health care system and increase access to health care in rural and underserved areas.

But a state employees' union is suing the Corbett administration over a plan to close nearly half of the state's 60 community health centers.

Neil Bisno, president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare PA, said Wolf has not been an advocate for public health, citing a new study by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that found the state’s public health system is chronically underfunded and ranks near the bottom among states in public health spending.

"As Pennsylvania's top regulator of various healthcare facilities and services around the state, the Secretary of Health fills a vital role in keeping Pennsylvania safe and healthy,” said Bisno. “Instead of ensuring all Pennsylvania citizens access to healthcare services, he wants to close nearly half the public health centers across the state and slash the level of public healthcare professionals.”

Wolf, whose salary is $149,804, is one of only four non-medical doctor to serve as state health secretary since the post was created in 1951. He has an undergraduate degree from Slippery Rock University and a graduate degree in business administration from the University of Phoenix.

Wolf must be confirmed by the Senate.

Meanwhile, in other vacancy-related news, Michael A. Sprow has been appointed acting Inspector General.

Sprow has served as executive chief counsel to Inspector General Kenya Mann Faulkner since Nov. 2012. Faulkner announced her resignation from the $138,000-a-year post last month.

Corbett also named K. Kenneth Brown, II to serve as chief counsel for the Office of Inspector General. Brown joined the office in February following five years with the Criminal Prosecutions Section of the Attorney General’s Office.

Sprow also worked for Corbett when he was attorney general and both were lead attorneys in the prosecution of multiple lawmakers in the Bonusgate corruption scandal.

Brown led the successful prosecution against former House Speakers Bill DeWeese and John Perzel and Sprow handled the case against former Democratic policy chairman Steve Stetler.

All of the defendants those cases are now serving prison terms.

Five top members of Corbett's staff have departed since he took office in January 2011, the most recent was Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Krancer who resigned last month.

Department of Public Welfare Secretary Gary Alexander and Corbett's chief-of-staff Bill Ward also resigned their posts.








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