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Stitt Still Refusing To Explain Removal Of Only Doctors From State Health Care Authority Board

Chris Polansky
Gov. Kevin Stitt (left) and staffers following a press conference in Tulsa on July 23, 2021.

The office of Gov. Kevin Stitt Tuesday again declined to answer the question of why the governor removed the only two physicians from the Oklahoma Health Care Authority board earlier this month.

The latest refusal to provide clarity on Stitt's motive for removing Drs. Jean Hausheer and Laura Shamblin from the board governing the agency, which manages the state's Medicaid program, on Sept. 4 comes ahead of a press conference scheduled for Tuesday afternoon by Rep. Monroe Nichols (D-Tulsa) to announce a proposal to wrest control of the board back from the governor's office to the state legislature.

“The governor’s actions over the last couple of weeks regarding the Oklahoma Health Care Authority Board have highlighted his inability to make decisions absent of politics,” Nichols said. “The governor shouldn’t have even been in the position to allow politics to interfere with the delivery of state services. Fortunately, there is an easy legislative fix when it comes to the Oklahoma Health Care Authority.”  

At a press availability on Thursday related to the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon, KOKH reporter Shardaa Gray was cut off by marathon staff as she asked the governor about the removals as Stitt grinned and said nothing. 

Hausheer told Public Radio Tulsa she had a history of good communication directly with the governor, but she was informed of her removal by a Stitt staffer on the Saturday of Labor Day weekend rather than from the governor himself.

"It is odd because September is the month where we honor women physicians in medicine and we got canned that very month. I don’t know why. I would say we each were very thoughtful. We cared, we studied, we did our homework," Hausheer told Public Radio Tulsa.

Stitt has named former state deputy tourism director and COVID-19 "PPE czar" Gino DeMarco and former INTEGRIS Health executive Susan Dell'Osso as replacements for Hausheer, a Lawton opthalmologist and past president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association, and Shamblin, an Oklahoma City pediatrician who serves on the board of the Oklahoma chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Hausheer and Shamblin each opposed Stitt's plans for outsourcing management of Oklahoma's newly expanded Medicaid program to private companies, which the Oklahoma Supreme Court found unconstitutional in a June ruling.

Chris joined Public Radio Tulsa as a news anchor and reporter in April 2020. He’s a graduate of Hunter College and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, both at the City University of New York.
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