LAKE MARY, Fla. - The man who has served as director of the Florida Department of Health in Orange County for the past three years is taking on a new role within Orange County’s government.
Orange County Mayor Jerry L. Demings on Tuesday announced the appointment of Dr. Raul Pino as the next Orange County Director of Health Services.
Dr. Pino was placed on leave earlier this year while the state investigated allegations he may have accessed colleagues' private health data concerning coronavirus vaccination status. It came after he emailed staff criticizing its low internal vaccination rate.
Dr. Pino wrote that he asked their analyst to run vaccination data on the county's 568 active staffers and learned only 77 had received boosters after their first series of shots, 219 had received the two-shot vaccine series, and 34 had gotten just one dose.
"I am sorry but in the absence of reasonable and real reasons it is irresponsible not to be vaccinated," he wrote in the Jan. 4 message. "We have been at this for two years, we were the first to give vaccines to the masses, we have done more than 300,000, and we are not even at 50 percent, pathetic."
At the time, there was speculation that Pino's suspension was politically motivated because it happened after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis banned coronavirus vaccine mandates, including for government employees. The governor has been a vocal critic of lockdowns and coronavirus mask and vaccine mandates.
FOX 35 News reached out to the Florida Department of Health for more information following Pino's suspension.
"As the decision to get vaccinated is a personal medical choice that should be made free from coercion and mandates from employers, the employee in question has been placed on administrative leave, and the Florida Department of Health is conducting an inquiry to determine if any laws were broken in this case," said DOH spokesman Jermey Redfern. "The Department is committed to upholding all laws, including the ban on vaccine mandates for government employees and will take appropriate action once additional information is known."
Dr. Pino returned from administrative leave on March 11 following an administrative review that addressed compliance issues with department policy.
"As a result of the administrative review, the Department established a corrective action plan to address these compliance issues," Redfern said at the time. "We will continue to work closely with Dr. Pino to ensure residence of Orange County are receiving the best health services from their county health department."
As the Director of the Health Services Department, Dr. Pino will oversee all strategic, operational and fiscal responsibilities of the department, the county said, which includes the county’s Corrections Health Services, Drug-Free Office, Orange County Medical Clinic, Animal Services and Mosquito Control Division, as well as any response to unique public health matters affecting county residents.
"Dr. Pino has a rich history in working with our Health Services Department to meet the needs of our community," said Mayor Demings. "During these most recent years, Dr. Pino’s leadership has been instrumental in the success of our public health initiatives, including our response to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Dr. Pino graduated from the University of Havana with a Doctorate in Medicine and the University of Connecticut School of Medicine with Master of Public Health degree. Prior to coming to the state of Florida in 2019, Dr. Pino served as the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Health from 2015-2019.
"He has proven himself as an asset to our public health efforts and will continue to provide valuable leadership to our community in his new role with Orange County," added Mayor Demings.
Dr. Pino’s appointment will be effective April 26, 2022, upon approval by the Board of County Commissioners. His first day as Health Services Director will be May 2, 2022.