The House budget committee has threatened to cut the administration budget for the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) by as much as 10 percent for not releasing Bourbon virus testing results.
State Rep. Justin Alferman, R-Hermann, who is the vice chairman of the committee, told The Missourian the proposed budget cuts weren’t a threat, they were a promise.
In the hearing Wednesday, he first proposed a 10 percent budget reduction for administrative staff and then committee chairman Scott Fitzpatrick, R-Shell Knob, threatened even deeper cuts if they didn’t get answers.
“The cuts are nothing that will hurt anyone receiving services or benefits from the DHSS,” Alferman said. “But they are going to hurt the administration and the bureaucracy continuing to obstruct information.”
Alferman said they could have meeting with DHSS as quickly as Thursday, if not early next week to discuss the issue further.
Meramec State Park Assistant superintendent Tamela Wilson died from complications of the ultra rare tick-borne Bourbon virus last summer after being bitten by an infected tick over Memorial Day weekend.
At the hearing, DHSS representatives cited Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) patient privacy laws saying if the sample portion of people tested was smaller than the population of the entire state of Missouri (6,135,888), they were not required to release the info because it may identify those who may have tested positive.
Alferman and Fitzpatrick scoffed at their explanation and affirmed the threats of administrative budget cuts adding if others tested positive for the potentially deadly disease, the public should be aware.
After the hearing Wednesday afternoon, many other budget committee members began to share Alferman’s anger because this was the first they had heard not only of a state employee dying as a result of the virus, but also that no public health alerts or information was given by DHSS.
Two weeks ago Alferman, Fitzpatrick and fellow Franklin County State Rep. Nate Tate, R-St. Clair met with Williams on the subject of Bourbon virus testing of other state park employees, but did not receive any info before the hearing.
Wilson lived in the park outside Sullivan which has 10 full-time employees and an additional 25 seasonal staff.
Wilson’s daughter, Amie Wilson-May has been in contact with The Missourian since her mother’s death, and verified none of her family members have been tested either.
The Missourian will have more on this developing story in our weekend edition.