Bassett Gets Warm Reception As Next Health Commissioner

September 30, 2021

Gov. Kathy Hochul’s Wednesday announcement that Dr. Mary Bassett will replace Dr. Howard Zucker as the state health commissioner was well received by lawmakers and medical professionals alike.

The Legislature’s warm reception of Bassett is a good sign that relations between the agency and Albany can be repaired, especially because those ties had been frayed toward the end of Zucker’s tenure, said Mark Ustin, partner at Farrell Fritz and former aide to Gov. George Pataki.

Zucker and the Health Department had been lambasted especially for stonewalling inquiries from the Legislature about nursing home deaths. They also had been criticized for their alleged role in a contentious policy to discharge Covid patients from hospitals to nursing homes.

“It’s rare to find a physician with her qualifications who is so dedicated to public service—and to social justice,” Ustin said.

Additionally, Bassett’s role in city government makes her ready to hit the ground running come December, Ustin said. “Dr. Bassett’s appointment ensures that the person stepping into that position isn’t going to have a steep learning curve. She knows how health departments work, and she knows New York,” he noted. “She’s a great pick.”

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