Sheila Pinette is no longer head of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
However, even without managing the department, it appears she will still be responsible for a number of the public health-related duties she had at the CDC.
The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the CDC, said Tuesday that Pinette, a doctor, has left her position as CDC director to become “chief health officer” for DHHS.
Ken Albert, who is a nurse and a lawyer, will replace Pinette as director of the CDC. He has been serving as director of DHHS’ Division of Licensing and Regulatory Services.
It is unclear what this move means for Pinette, who was one of the key CDC officials at the heart of a document-shredding scandal within the department. She, other CDC officials and DHHS recently settled a federal whistle-blower lawsuit that stemmed from those document-shredding allegations.
“Chief health officer” appears to be a new position within DHHS. There was no such job listed on the department’s organizational chart Tuesday and the head of the CDC has long been considered the top health officer for the state.
DHHS spokesman David Sorensen did not answer questions that sought to clarify why Pinette was moving, how the decision was made and what the change will mean to infectious disease monitoring and response in Maine — historically one of the most prominent duties of the CDC director.
Instead, he released a statement by DHHS Commissioner Mary Mayhew that said, in part, that the CDC is “headed in an exciting new direction under the capable leadership of Ken Albert.”
She added, “I am thankful for Dr. Pinette’s service as director, and I know that she will be a valuable asset in achieving clinical goals across the department as the chief health officer.”
Sorensen also released a memo sent Tuesday morning from Mayhew to all DHHS staff members. In it she outlines an immediate change that essentially splits the CDC director’s position in half, with Albert taking responsibility for CDC management and Pinette handling public health issues — but with Pinette no longer part of the CDC.
Albert, Mayhew said, “will be responsible for analyzing and restructuring Maine’s public health efforts, increasing efficiency, ensuring that measurable goals are in place and that all programs are compliant with established federal and state standards.”
Pinette, she said, will focus on “clinical outcomes in various populations through engagement of key public and private health system participants” and she will “work across the provider community to support the department’s vision of integrated physical and behavioral health care.” Pinette’s work will emphasize drug-affected newborns, infant mortality and “other pressing public health concerns.”
Sorensen said Albert will not report to Pinette. He did not say whether Pinette will have a staff as she did at the CDC, and if she won’t have staff, how she will address public health concerns working alone.
Much of Albert’s work experience has been in Lewiston-Auburn. According to DHHS, he served as manager of emergency services at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, health center administrator at CMMC and Lewiston site manager for LifeFlight.