The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control is laying off 45 employees and centralizing some services as part of an agency shakeup announced Friday by department director Catherine Templeton.
Many of the layoffs affect upper-level managers who work in regional offices outside the departments Columbia headquarters. An email to DHEC employees said some of the personnel changes involved health division managers.
The layoffs, which had been rumored for months, sent ripples of concern through the agencys workers, but Templetons email said those laid off could reapply for new jobs.
68 new positions
Templeton pointed out that DHEC would hire 68 people to fill different positions. The new hires, however, apparently would not command the same salaries. Her email said DHEC would still save $2 million when the new workers come on board. DHEC, which oversees public health and environmental protection, is one of South Carolinas largest agencies, with more than 3,000 employees.
In her email late Friday morning, Templeton also said the department would reorganize its offices, cutting the number of regional districts from eight to four and centralizing many programs, such as personnel and information technology. No services will be cut, she and agency spokesman Mark Plowden said. The email also suggested changes had occurred in the departments coastal resources division.
Templeton, who took office in March after Gov. Nikki Haleys championed her for the post, said the changes are warranted to make the department more efficient and less burdensome for citizens who need health and environmental services. The idea is to reduce management positions and increase frontline workers, Templeton said Friday night.
This is all upper management, she said in a voice message to The State.
Many changes resulted from discussions with employees, she said. As I have traveled around the state listening to you, you have told me about the cumbersome processes and antiquated tools that complicate your jobs and compromise our services, the email said. You have been frustrated by the layers of management you have to go through to accomplish your tasks. You have expressed concern over the lack of direction from the central office and uniformity from region to region.
Dealing with redundancies
The email went on to say that Templeton wanted to protect frontline workers. But, she said, we have to eliminate self-created redundancies.
Templetons latest announcement follows a series of shakeups at the agency. Soon after taking office last spring, she brought in a highly paid team of advisers and laid off workers in the departments coastal division. Scores of longtime staffers then quit or retired, including its environmental chief and top lawyer.
The move angered some senators, who questioned her management style. But Templeton also has drawn praise for acting quickly on environmental issues, including a pollution cleanup in Columbias Rosewood neighborhood, and taking the lead to reduce obesity in South Carolina.
DHEC issues environmental permits for industries, monitors water and air quality, permits landfills, regulates hospital expansions and provides regional health services to those in need.
Through the years, however, the department has been criticized heavily for bureaucracy and its failure to move quickly on environmental and health protection problems. The State newspaper chronicled many of the agencys missteps in a 2008 series of stories.
It was not known which employees will lose their jobs or face different responsibilities under Templetons plan. But three environmental and health supervisors no longer are part of DHECs eight-member executive management team, the highest-ranking employees within the agency.
Carolyn Boltin-Kelly, the agencys coastal division director, is no longer part of the team, according to DHECs website. Also no longer on the executive team are Pam Dukes, a top-ranking health regulator experienced in nursing home care, and Lisa Waddell, the agencys longtime top health official.
Other changes announced Friday include:
• Merging the agencys environmental health division into the environmental services division
• Centralizing the agencys human resources, procurement, information technology and budget functions.