We just found out that Shannon Jones, chair of the Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee, is refusing to hear testimony on confirmation hearings for Rick Hodges, John Kasich’s unqualified appointee for director of the Ohio Department of Health.

Kasich made the announcement back in August and we quickly pointed out that Hodges, the former head of the Ohio Turnpike, was statutorily unqualified for the position.  Ohio law requires the director be a medical doctor or have extensive public health experience.  Hodges has neither.  He then tried to cover for the lack of experience by updating his LinkedIn profile to include the word “healthcare.”

This week the Kasich Administration effectively admitted to Hodges shortcoming by announcing they had created a new position at the Department of Health for an actual medical professional to help out Hodges.  As Alan Johnson points out, the “position was created to backstop Hodges, a former Republican state lawmaker who has managerial but no significant medical experience.”   The new medical director, Dr. Mary DiOrio, and Hodges “will be paid a total of $280,000, nearly twice as much as Dr. Ted Wymyslo, who resigned as health director this year.”  Because… government efficiency!  Or something.

And it gets worse.

According to documents obtained by Plunderbund, Shannon Jones is now refusing to allow testimony at Hodges’ confirmation hearing tomorrow.

“Chair Jones is not entertaining testimony for the appointment of Director Hodges,” writes Jones’ legislative aide in response to Sue Allen, a nurse from Springfield who wanted to testify. “However, I have shared your sentiments with Chair Jones. Please feel free to share your testimony with the other members of the committee.”

We’ve included Ms. Allen’s letter below.  But she is not the only one who wanted to testify.  Jessie Hill, a Case Western law professor, wrote to the committee to explain the legal liability Ohio could face by putting someone who is not qualified in the job.  And Dr. Craig Strafford, an OBGYN and former state medical board member, wrote to explain that “Richard Hodges does not meet the statutory requirements to serve as Director of the Ohio Department of Health.”  We’ve included letters from Strafford and Hill below as well.

At the end of the day, state law requires the director of the Ohio Department of Health be a medical professional.  Hodges is not.  And whether or not Kasich creates a new position to provide a “backstop” and cover for Hodges inexperience, Kasich’s appointment goes against the requirements set forth in Ohio law.

It’s going to be a long four years.

Here are the PDFs of Hill’s Testimony and Strafford’s Testimony.  And below is Sue Allen’s email:

Chairwoman Jones, Ranking Minority Member Cafaro, and Members of the Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee,

My name is Sue Allen, I am a registered nurse in Springfield, and I am writing to you today to express my concerns about the Governor’s nomination of Richard Hodges as the Director of the Ohio Department of Health.I am submitting written testimony, as I understand “in person” testimony is not being permitted.

As a health care professional I understand the complexity of health care, which is why having someone who is not a doctor leading the Department of Health gives me great concern. I understand that he will be advised by a medical team, but the legal authority and the final decision are up to Mr. Hodges. What happens when the medical team disagrees, or a decision has to be made on the spot without the time to extensively brief Mr. Hodges on the background information? It is Mr. Hodges that will make the decision, the buck stops with him.

Our state has complicated and challenging health issues to address; from our miserable infant mortality rate, to the rising levels of drug abuse, water safety issues (especially important to our Tremont City landfill problem in Clark County) and so much more. Ohioans deserve a leader at the Ohio Department of Health who has the education, experience, and expertise to rise to these challenges and make Ohio a health care leader. Mr. Hodges does not fit that bill. I urge the committee to think long and hard about our vision for the health and well-being of Ohioans before casting a vote on the nomination of Richard Hodges as our new Director of Health.