President Barack Obama has appointed Ron Klain, a lawyer with long Washington experience, to serve as his administration’s Ebola response coordinator, the White House announced on Friday.
Before Klain’s appointment, Obama claimed: “It may make sense for us to have one person, in part just so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process just to make sure that we’re crossing all the Ts and dotting all the Is going forward.”
Mr. Klain, who previously worked as chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and a trusted adviser at the Obama White House, will now be Obama’s new Ebola “czar”, focusing on health security in the US and tackling the outbreak of the disease.
He will report to President’s homeland security adviser Lisa Monaco, who had been more informally coordinating the administration’s response, and to National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Officials said that the choice fell on Klain for his management experience and contacts in the US government.
“It’s not solely a medical response,” White House press secretary Josh Earnest said.
“That’s why somebody with Mr. Klain’s credentials – somebody that has strong management experience both inside government but also in the private sector; he is somebody who has strong relationships with members of Congress; and obviously strong relationships with those of us who worked with him here at the White House earlier in the administration. All of that means that he is the right person.”
His major work will be dealing “to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa.”
Klain, however, came under fire shortly after his appointment for a lack of medical experience. According to Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that choice shows that “the President sees Ebola as a political crisis and not a health crisis.”
He added: “As a doctor who has worked in public-health programs in the U.S. and hospitals in Africa, we need someone with extensive health-care experience in dealing with this public health crisis.”
Republican Representative Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs, also questioned the President’s choice, saying, “I hope he (Klain) is successful in this. I think it’s a step in the right direction, but I just question picking someone without any background in public health.
The Obama administration is not alone in facing criticism. The World Health Organization has been faulted for failing to do enough to halt the spread since the outbreak was detected in March, reports Reuters.
The World Health Organization said that mistakes had been widely made in attempts to contain the outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.
“Nearly everyone involved in the outbreak response failed to see some fairly plain writing on the wall,” the U.N. health agency said, adding that experts did not realise soon enough that traditional containment methods would not work in a West African environment.
More than 4,400 people have died in the current outbreak and almost all of the fatalities have exclusively been in West Africa. A total of 8,997 cases of infection have been confirmed, according to the WHO, says IBTimes.