Greene ‘very capable’ to lead Virginia Department of Health, Youngkin says

Governor Glenn Yongkin described Virginia’s health official as “very capable” of leading the state’s health department while disassociating himself from the latter’s comments about the role of racism in health disparities.

The governor’s comments, made on Tuesday after the budget signing ceremony, come on the heels of the April 15th article in the Washington Post And the Virginia Health Commissioner, Dr. Colin Greene He said he hadn’t seen him yet “Convincing evidence” that racism played a role in the well-documented disparities in maternal and infant health of black mothers and their children. He also objected to the term ‘racism’, telling the newspaper ‘If you say ‘racism’, you blame whites’.

Some Virginia Department of Health employees also told the newspaper they feared for their jobs after Greene downplayed the role of racism in health disparities.

Dr. Colin Greene, Virginia Health Commissioner. (Virginia Department of Health)

Lawmakers, public health experts and political groups including the Virginia chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus have condemned Green’s comments and questioned his ability to lead the department. Health Care for All Virginia, a coalition of members including the Virginia Poverty Law Center and the Commonwealth Institute for Financial Analysis, described his views as “drenched in racial stereotypes and in opposition to the most basic expectations we hold for Virginia’s public servants.”

Since then green He retracted some of his commentsHe lamented that his comments left employees feeling “discriminated or disrespected”.

While Yongkin described himself as frustrated by the commissioner’s “inability to communicate” about an important message, he also said he had not made a decision about Green’s future with the agency, despite his apparent willingness to keep him in the senior division position.

“He has to prove that he can do the job,” Yongkin said. “I think he can. And we’re going to support him to prove it.”

The commissioner’s comments last week mark a 180-degree shift for state health leaders after former Governor Ralph Northam announced a 2025 goal for Eliminating racial disparities in pregnancy-related deaths. In Virginia, black women Died from pregnancy complications At more than twice the rate for white women, former Health Commissioner Dr. Norm Oliver also made eliminating these differences a cornerstone of the department.

Over the past two years, state lawmakers have also pushed for legislative changes to address those disparities, Expand Medicaid Coverage For beneficiaries for one year after birth and Delegating Payments for Doula Services.

Yongkin also described closing maternal mortality gaps as a central goal of his administration, and pledged to expand access to care on Tuesday without specifying specific policy measures he intends to follow.

When asked if racism played a role in those inequalities, he replied that they did.

“I think we find ourselves today in a moment in which the historical obstacles that black mothers and black children have suffered are fully contributing,” Yongkin said.

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