The 2016 Legislative ended on Friday – and so did the tenure of Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong.
The Florida Senate declined to bring his confirmation vote to the floor and Gov. Rick Scott quickly appointed Dr. Celeste Philip, the department secretary for the Department of Health, as Acting Surgeon General.
Scott first appointed Armstrong in 2012 and reappointed him this year, but the Senate refused to confirm over questions about cuts to staff at the Department of Health, implementation of medical marijuana and his response to the growing HIV rate in South Florida.
There was also concern over children being dropped from the state’s Medicaid rolls and the disbanding of cardiac panel of renowned physicians that reviewed pediatric heart programs of hospitals. The move came after the panel reviewed the pediatric cardiac program at St. Mary’s Medical Center in West Palm Beach – a program that has since been shut down.
Scott lauded Armstrong in announcing Philip’s appointment, saying he made Florida a leading destination for cancer research and treatment and responded to epidemics like Zika.
“Even while battling cancer in recent months, Dr. Armstrong displayed unwavering determination to protect Florida families, and I truly appreciate his hard work,” the governor said in a statement..
It’s been a tough year for Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong.
Gov. Rick Scott’s head of the Department of Health is having trouble getting reconfirmed.
A Senate’s Ethics & Elections Committee is scheduled Tuesday to consider again the confirmation after a previous hearing was postponed partly out of fear Armstrong didn’t have enough votes.
It looks a bit better for him today as in the last week some medical groups have offered a show of support. Of particular concern among AIDS groups was Armstrong’s response to a spike in HIV cases in the Sunshine State. Armstrong has made HIV prevention a priority issue in the last few months.
He has also received questions about a drop in the number of people receiving services from county health departments as staff has been slashed.
Armstrong narrowly escaped an earlier panel – the Senate Health Policy Committee – when it voted 5-4 to approve the surgeon general’s nomination
Late last year, Armstrong announced he had colon cancer, undergoing surgery. Gov. Scott issued a statement of support on Monday:
“Dr. John Armstrong is a fighter. Not only is he currently fighting against colon cancer, but he has continued to fight for the well-being of everyone in our state – whether it is against epidemics like Ebola and Zika, or illnesses like cancer or AIDS that are still affecting far too many in our state.”
The 2016 session is the final opportunity for confirmation or he will be forced to step down. Armstrong was appointed in 2012.