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Governor McCrory’s newly appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services meets the state’s public health leaders.
By Rose Hoban
Dr. Aldona Wos, the newly appointed state secretary of health and human services, addressed hundreds of North Carolina’s public health leaders yesterday, with a message to emphasize customer service.
Wos (pronounced “vash”) told assembled local health directors at their annual meeting in Raleigh that the first point of contact for many patients is “someone behind the registration desk,” and that encounter should be marked by positive experiences.
“I think it is imperative that the front line that we have is flexible,” Wos told the gathering. “There is no reason that we should not aim to resolve the issues that the person has who is standing in front of us in a positive, pleasant manner, on the spot, when they are in front of us. That simply requires flexibility of thought and the will to resolve an issue.
“Being pleasant to people does not cost money. Being pleasant to people offers them dignity, sometimes in situations that are extremely stressful. This is not just a job we have, it’s a true calling to public service.”
During his campaign and since his election, Governor Pat McCrory has talked frequently about creating a “culture of customer service” where the state is the customer. Others of McCrory’s cabinet have referred to customer service being a priority of the new Republican administration.
“She gave us some charges, she gave us some things that we really do need to work on,” said state health director Dr. Laura Gerald. “She charged us to make sure that we were looking into customer service and making sure we were treating people with respect.
“She also charged us with looking into options for insuring patient accountability,” Gerald said, echoing another theme of Wos’ remarks. “In these challenging economic times, we have to make sure that every dollar is spent on things that are going well.”
Buncombe County Health Director Gibbie Harris said she’d like to have Wos come out and visit her offices in Asheville to see her employees’ customer service initiatives. The county’s departments of health and social services are both located in the same facility in Asheville, Harris said, and share some personnel.
“We have a single front desk that can route people through our clinical services, our WIC (Women, Infant & Children food program) services as well as our eligibility services through D.S.S.,” Harris said. “We have greeters at the front door that greet people as they come in and help them navigate the system.
“They’re able to speak the different languages that the are used by the folks in our community,” Harris said, referring to Wos’ admonition that staff need to remember some people entering the health care system do not speak English. Wos, who was born and educated in Poland, told the crowd that English is her second language.
Wos also told the group that she’s lived in a number of countries and experienced the health care systems in many parts of the world, including Cuba, where she recently visited.
“I must share with you this astonishing thought, none of these systems are perfect,” Wos said to laughter. “And nothing is free.”