CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It will take strong leadership from Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin to make improvements at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said Renate Pore, director of health-care policy for West Virginians for Affordable Health Care.
"I think people are crying out for this kind of leadership from the governor," Pore said.
Some state legislators also are ready to tackle problems at the DHHR.
Pore said West Virginia's governors have always been "afraid" of health care. Governors' staffs have not had people who have understood health care well, she said.
"[It's a tough] issue," Pore said, "but given how much money we spend on health care, there really ought to be an effort at the top level to manage it."
Tomblin's office recently released a report from a $320,000 audit of the DHHR by the Pennsylvania-based consulting company Public Works LLC. The report lays out 78 recommendations that auditors say would allow the department to save or gain $56.7 million in one year.
Among those recommendations are lowering the department's 30-percent turnover rate, filling critical vacancies, reducing overtime spending and reviewing and reducing travel spending.
A spokeswoman for Tomblin said there is a "lack of legislative action needed to implement the recommendations in the report."
That's right, said Delegate Don Perdue, who co-chairs the Legislative Oversight Commission on Health and Human Resources. Most of what Perdue, D-Wayne, saw on a first reading of the report is recommendations the governor can implement.
The Legislature will have a role in the changes, too, he said. The Legislature ultimately is responsible for finding a way to fund programs, he said.
"It's important for us to understand how those programs are working, if they're working and how we might be able to benefit those programs by being engaged in some way," Perdue said.
Sen. Ron Stollings, who co-chairs the oversight panel with Perdue, said he stands ready to introduce legislation, if needed.
"Hopefully, we can work with the Governor's Office in a cooperative fashion," said Stollings, D-Boone.