A person claiming to be a Department of Health employee sent an email to 60 state legislators and a dozen state reporters Friday morning lamenting working conditions under Cabinet Secretary Catherine Torres.
"Dr. Torres and her staff have endangered public health," the email says. Torres and upper management have recently been held under scrutiny by former employees, state legislators and several online commenters claiming to be current employees.
Critics have painted a picture of a DOH rife with intimidation and bullying under Torres. Roughly 20 percent of positions within the department are vacant. Some say it's because of the way things are being run.
After filing an Inspection of Public Records Act request with the governor's office, SFR also received one email sent to Gov. Susana Martinez' office on Dec. 16 regarding the working conditions at DOH. Read it below Pub-lix's e-mail.
Dear NM Legislators,
We, the NM Department of Health employees, are writing you because we are in desperate need of your assistance. We have nowhere else to turn at this point as we have exhausted all our avenues. The issue is DOH Cabinet Secretary Dr. Catherine Torres and her administration. Since her appointment she has created a toxic environment at DOH that is both hostile and dysfunctional. 20% or one in five positions are vacant and in many divisions the vacancy rate is well over 30%. Many of our skilled and dedicated peers have left the department for other lower paying positions because of the hostile environment Dr. Torres has fostered. Dr. Torres and her staff has endangered public health.
Below is an open letter to Dr. Torres that has been well circulated and most of us DOH staff empathize with:
Open Letter to Cabinet Secretary Catherine Torres, MD
from Employees of the New Mexico Department of Health
Dear Cabinet Secretary Torres, MD,
By your actions, it is clear that your goal is to dismantle the Department of Health. If this is indeed the political will, we would like to suggest that you include the staff responsible for their respective programs in the process in order to prevent further harm to citizens. We caution you that continuance of the approach you are taking will prove injurious to the good people the DOH serves.
We would also suggest that instead of alienating, persecuting and punishing those loyal state employees that have the fortitude to remain with the DOH that you partner with them to humanely dismantle their programs or work WITH them to institute changes that serve the political will and the good of the state.
We would like to clarify that the employees of the DOH are not the leaches and criminals you portray and treat them as. The DOH employees that you have unjustly vilified are PEOPLE whose expertise you should rely upon. In fact, many of these PEOPLE:
· Are highly educated, nationally recognized in their fields and are selflessly dedicated to public service
· Have sacrificed to serve the public health and earn considerably less than their private sector counterparts
· Are totally committed and dedicated to the programs they run and the citizens they serve
· Have taken on additional duties and responsibilities as staff declines without compensation or complaint
· Regularly work a 50-60 hour week without recompense or complaint
· Personally purchase many of the supplies and equipment used to do their jobs
· Regularly subsidize the travel required for their jobs as per diem does not cover a modest hotel room and meals in most areas of the state
· Utilize their own vehicles without reimbursement when state vehicles are not available or unreliable
· Would gladly assist you in any way and were always willing to support you and the new administration in the best interest of the State of New Mexico
You have discarded all the good the department had to offer and embraced the bad. The staff that you have chosen to align yourself and fraternize with (bowling, movies, dining) are the staff that are responsible for the DOH's past problems and troubled reputation. You had a perfect opportunity to make improvements at the DOH, but instead you "friended" the problems and encouraged their malfeasance.
What you probably do not know is that these loyal, trusted advisors openly discuss communicating everything you do and say directly to Duffy Rodriguez at DFA. Who they say is really running the DOH. The joke is on you.
You should also be aware that the hard working employees in your department are fully aware that you:
· Scream at nearly every employee you come into contact with
· Leer and scowl at employees as you pass them in the hallways or ride with them in the elevators
· Are seen and heard unprofessionally yelling and crying in the Runnels Building
· Attend department sponsored events and do not interact with employees who are participating
· Plan department sponsored events and notify employees that they are required to attend, giving them less than half an hour's notice
· Have without thought or regard ruined employees' lives each of whom were only trying to their jobs
· Demean and misuse the highly qualified DOH staff by using them as your personal chauffeurs and errand runners
· Locked down the building and selectively allowed early access to your trusted advisors and leaving commuters who are at the mercy of public transportation to wait outside in the cold for admittance, like dogs
· Changed policies, without informing the staff, and directed supervisors to discipline employees for infractions that they are unaware of
· Dictated that the DOH staff will socialize with you when outside of work and demanded respect when giving none
· Informed division heads that employees are to be turned in who question your draconian and immature management style
· Directed that the short staffed OGC, HRB and ASD spend their valuable time reading fellow employee's emails instead of doing their jobs
· Ruthlessly gutted programs without knowledge of their workings
· Disregarded the seasoned, balanced and knowledgeable counsel of OGC, HRB, ASD administrators and division directors when it did not support your vendetta de jour
· Arbitrarily stalled contracts and agreements placing programs and facilities at risk, diminishing their ability to operate effectively and severely compromising the health and safety of clients and patients
· Failed to work collaboratively with other Cabinet Secretaries and their agencies, leaving the DOH in a schism
· Left the state at huge financial risk to be accountable for the numerous personnel policy, legal and constitutional violations perpetrated under your administration that were done against counsel
· Last and most important, you have CRIPPLED the DOH, a department that is critical to New Mexico!
We, the employees who you have repeatedly disrespected, devalued and abused are undertaking a campaign to bring your transgressions in the DOH to light. It is not only the right thing to do, it is also our first amendment right. We are contacting Governor Martinez, SPO, our legislators and the media. If your unprofessional and mean spirited behavior is not stopped and the focus of your management is not shifted to public health and away from petty, vindictive and immature pursuits, the citizens of this great state will be the ones to suffer. They are already suffering your wrath.
Cabinet Secretary Torres, MD, got any humanity? Is there a point at which you are capable of switching your focus from redesigning perfectly good logos, installing a sink in your office, disciplining employees for wearing jeans, re-tooling the standard Windows log-on, spying on employees and yelling at EVERYONE to concentrating on public health? You say that you are "cleaning house", but who throws out the good china and keeps the dirty paper plates? The damage you have done to the DOH is devastating and grows worse by the day.
We are also including some articles about DOH in the press. Please read the stories. Even more interesting are the comments following the articles.
Dr. Torres and her staff are very vengeful and vindictive in their actions. As employees we work in fear every day. Us DOH employees have many different political positions but we all share the same inclination that Dr. Torres and her staff is endangering NM's health and safety net services and destroying a department that is doing some of the most good.
...and here's the letter sent to the governor's office about DOH working conditions: