We applaud the governor for proposing an increase in staffing levels for essential public health services in his budget (“Patrick would bolster pharmacy oversight,” Metro, Jan. 24). Public health provides protections that we seldom pause to think about — things like inspections of health care facilities and pharmacies, food safety assurance, and prompt response to infectious disease to avoid outbreaks. This type of infrastructure is not sexy, and it is not free, but we all rely on it every day.
Due to severe funding constraints over the last five years, this system is intensely strained and poses unacceptable risks to the public. For example: Staffing levels for state food inspectors were described as “severely deficient” in 2007, and have decreased since then; there is a long backlog of requests for air quality assessments at schools and other public buildings where mold and other containments pose potential dangers; and there are not enough inspectors to respond to complaints at more than 2,300 health care facilities licensed by the Department of Public Health.