By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
Dependability is an often under appreciated virtue. Likewise, competence in government administration is overlooked.
Barrels of ink and terabytes of data are used to expose the wasteful agency and dubious bureaucrat. While nary a nanobyte is given to the effective and well managed government bureaucracy.
Dr. Don Williamson, M.D. Alabama’s Public Health Officer stands as an example of smart, efficient, capable and effective government leadership.
In many way Williamson as made himself a man for all seasons, with a 20 year career of public service.
The value statement of the Alabama Department of Public Health could be applied as a description of Williamson, “…Provide caring, high quality, and professional services for the improvement and protection of the public’s health through disease prevention and the assurance of public services to resident and transient populations of the state regardless of social circumstances or the ability to pay.”
Williamson in his years of government service has become the embodiment of that statement.
Never more so than when he accepted the governor’s request to step in and rescue the failing Medicaid system of Alabama.
As Williamson has said, the crisis at Medicaid if not halted would create a, “Positive death spiral,” that would not only devastate the lives of Medicaid recipients but also would cascades like a nuclear chain reaction in shattering health services for all Alabamians no matter where they live on the socio-economic scale.
Williamson, has said he did not want the job, doesn’t want to continue in the job and is not happy to be faced with the task at hand but nevertheless he has proved to be–if only temporarily– the only man for the job.
In what could have been quixotic adventure Williamson and company has brought good data, sound ideas and concrete solutions to the governor and legislature.
Williamson worked with the Hospital Association and others to cut cost, find money and stave off catastrophic failure.
He has also pointed the way to better management of the system. Identifying fundamental upgrades needed in the department. Williamson has alerted the government to the fact that Medicaid has operated without a CFO, without adequate computer systems and data gathering methods and that budgets have been projected without having an actuarial table from which to plan.
Williamson has brought both practical solutions and skilled emergency management to the failing department. All without casting blame, seeking glory or any of the usual trapping of the political world.
While Medicaid’s problems are far from over and the budget to fund the system is in jeopardy of failing, the state owes a great voice of thanks to Dr. Williamson and his staff.
During his campaign for governor Dr. Bentley ran ads that said Alabama needed a doctor. It looks like we have one, his name is Dr. Don Williamson. The state is fortunate that Governor Bentley asked for a second opinion.