Oklahoma State Department of Health. Courtesy News9

Read: The full report of anonymous concerns posted by Oklahoma State Department of Health employees

Not long after Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin placed Preston Doerflinger in charge of Oklahoma’s beleaguered state Department of Health, the former Office of Management and Enterprise Services director instituted a new program.

The department’s 2,000-plus employees, concerned about the future of the agency given money issues, high-profile resignations of agency leaders, furloughs and low staff morale, could anonymously report “concerns” through a third-party company called “Incognea.to.”

On Wednesday The Frontier received a copy of every concern posted through the system from its inception until sometime in December through an Open Records request.

More than 650 individual concerns are listed in the report, which run the gamut from complaints about mold in health department buildings across the state, to questions on why positions funded by federal money (rather than depleted state dollars) were being furloughed, to one employee who offered to spy on co-workers for incoming management.

The report also displays a quickly changing attitude toward Doerflinger’s leadership, beginning with enthusiasm following an early video conference with employees. That relationship appears to begin to deteriorate after some employees said they were first told about upcoming layoffs through an Oklahoma City media report.

“Your video conference was a success,” one person noted early on in the report. “The scuttlebutt here is that you are well on your way to being a trusted member of our ‘family.’”

But by the final pages, which include reports from the middle of December, the tide had begun to turn.

“(Doerflinger) is either a bald-faced liar or … He has no idea what services are provided or the workings of the county health department,” one person wrote. “And either of those choices are unacceptable.”

The turning point appears to have been a Dec. 8 news report by Oklahoma City television station KOCO.

In September, OSDH had informed employees of upcoming furloughs, and then the following month told employees via an email of 250 upcoming layoffs.

Between the furloughs and layoffs, employees hoped no one else would be affected by the agency’s cash-crunch. But the news story dashed those hopes. And worse, according to numerous employees who filed concerns through the Incognea.to program, the news came from the media rather than OSDH officials.

“What happened to your promise that we would know RIF (Reduction In Force) details before the media?????” one person asked.


One employee added: “You assured us that we would learn things from the state office before they broke on the news. This is very distressing for employees. We deserve more consideration.”

“The new transparency that was talked about is NOT transparent at all,” another wrote.

One employee initially made note of their attempt to “do my very darndest to remain in a tone of civility,” but ended the post by asking Doerflinger to “please consider your opportunity to not be an asshat. Thanks!”

One woman, who was apparently among the handful of unannounced layoffs, angrily wrote to Doerflinger that she was a widow who had spent 11 years at the health department, then was laid off unceremoniously ”through no fault of my own.”

“You are an APPOINTED person,” she wrote of Doerflinger. “You did not apply for this job – yet you come in here, with no knowledge of public health, and start hacking away. I don’t have friends in high places to put in a word for me to avoid getting cut and I certainly don’t have the money to buy my way out of losing my job. IT IS NOT FAIR AND IS SIMPLY WRONG!’

The individual notes do not identify the name of the sender, nor the date or time the concern was posted. Each one is merely given a number.

Health department spokesman Tony Sellars told The Frontier in December that the program was completely anonymous and all of the postings were handled by Incognea.to personnel only, who would then compile a report to give to Doerflinger.

“No OSDH employees are involved in reviewing the information,” Sellars said in December. “The data is put into a readable format for Preston and provided to him.”

Other concerns
Ideas for cost-saving measures ranged from the difficult to manage — like suddenly requiring payment for what had been mostly free sexually transmitted disease tests — to simply ending travel for meetings and doing video conferences instead.

Another employee wrote about a surveillance system upgrade that took more than three years to complete. The employee stated that the Centers For Disease Control were to provide the upgrade (and IT assistance) for free, yet the OSDH was billed more than $250,000.

“The hours billed and the breakdown provided do not fit the actual hours worked on the project,” the employee noted … “attempts to dispute the ‘bill’ were met with ‘not your problem,’ ‘don’t worry about it,’ they can charge what they want to charge.”

One person complained that though the health department was in charge of making sure buildings across the state were safe and free of mold and other things, many health department buildings “would never pass” inspections.

“We don’t practice what we preach,” the employee wrote. “We do not comply with fire codes. Elevators in Tulsa bounce and sway and the fire escapes are locked requiring employees to use the elevators … Very few facilities are safe, much less healthy.”

Another employee noted mice, roaches and mold in one of the offices.

There were also concerns with the effects of cost-cutting, with one person reporting OSDH staff already struggled to investigate claims of rape at nursing homes in a timely manner.

“If we can’t meet the federal mandates of our job my biggest concern is (the government) taking this away from our state and assigning it to another group,” the person wrote. “It’s sad. We have been on top for so long and I’ve been so proud. Now that’s gone.”

Perhaps the most poignant note appeared about halfway through the report, and ended with a simple “You are in our prayers.”

Additional reading

As troubles mount, state health department employees file nearly 600 anonymous 'concerns' in less than a month