HENRICO, Va. (WRIC) — The Virginia Board of Health is holding its first quarterly meeting without a state health commissioner in place.
Virginia’s last health commissioner, Dr. Colin Greene, was ousted from the role by Senate Democrats in February after leading the state’s Department of Health for a little more than a year.
The search for a new state health chief is ongoing, with interviews expected to wrap up this week. There is hope Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) will make his pick “soon,” the state board’s chairman said at the start of Thursday’s meeting.
R. Christopher Lindsay, the state Department of Health’s chief operating officer, has led the agency since Greene’s departure. But he’s not a licensed doctor, a requirement for the state health commissioner under Virginia code.
“I believe we’ve continued to thrive actually,” Lindsay told reporters Thursday when asked if the board can properly function without a commissioner. “As I mentioned in my opening comments, we’ve got a fantastic leadership team that are providing guidance and I’m there simply as the chief operating officer to continue to provide that day-to-day leadership for the agency in consultation with the secretary of health as well.”
Lindsay said all department decisions under his leadership, which he said included certifying a few licenses primarily related to nursing homes and home health care, have been made in consultation with the attorney general’s office.
Members of the AG’s office have advised Lindsay since he took over for Greene and were present at Thursday’s meeting.
Board member James Shuler said besides the brief update at the start of Thursday’s meeting, the board has heard “very little” on the search but that he’s encouraged it’s in its final stages.
“As a board, we’re not into micromanaging,” Shuler told 8News. “We specifically don’t have a role in naming a commissioner but we would like for our thoughts to be considered because we are the board that commissioner will be working with.”
On top of the necessary qualifications for the role, Shuler told 8News he and others on the board would prefer a commissioner who is “apolitical.”
“Well, I think that was answered by the Senate of Virginia rejecting his nomination,” Shuler said when asked if he thought Dr. Greene was apolitical. “If you follow my drift.”
Dr. Greene’s tenure as Virginia’s health commissioner was marked by controversial remarks he made about systemic racism and health disparities before the Democratic-controlled state Senate blocked his nomination.
Greene was reprimanded by the Virginia Board of Health last June and faced criticism following a Washington Post report in which he said there was no “compelling” evidence of racism’s impact on infant and maternal mortality rates and labeled gun violence a “Democratic talking point.”