HARRISBURG, Pa. -- Some state employees have been fired and two agencies have overhauled their regulations in the wake of allegations that a doctor performed illegal abortions that killed a patient and viable infants, Gov. Tom Corbett announced Tuesday.
"It happened because people weren't doing their jobs, plain and simple," Corbett said.
Corbett said that four attorneys and two supervisors at the departments of Health and State were either fired or resigned on Friday and that eight other employees involved in the internal investigation remain on the state payroll. Others had previously resigned, he said.
"This doesn't even rise to the level of government run amok," Corbett said at a Capitol news conference at which he described his administration's actions in the month since Dr. Kermit Gosnell and eight employees of his West Philadelphia clinic were charged criminally. "It was government not running at all. To call this unacceptable doesn't say enough. It's despicable."
Corbett said the Department of State, which licenses medical professionals, has changed how it handles complaints and now requires more detailed reports. It also will train lawyers on investigative procedures, rules and regulations, and on how to prosecute complaints, he said.
At the Department of Health, which was not performing systematic checks of the state's abortion clinics for more than a decade before Gosnell's clinic was raided last year, yearly inspections are now mandatory, and the results will be posted on the state website.
"Laws are already on the books that should have prevented this situation," Corbett said. "The correction needs to take place inside the two agencies assigned to oversee them, so my administration has drawn up a set of guidelines or protocols."
Gosnell was charged last month with killing seven babies born alive and with the death of a 41-year-old refugee after a botched abortion at the clinic, which prosecutors have called a drug mill by day and abortion mill by night.
The refugee, Karnamaya Mongar, had fled Bhutan and had survived nearly 20 years in camps in Nepal. She was referred to Gosnell by a clinic in Virginia that didn't do second-trimester abortions.
Prosecutors said hundreds more babies died in Gosnell's clinic, and District Attorney Seth Williams called it a "house of horrors."
A grand jury report said Gosnell "murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors."
Gosnell, at his arraignment, said he did not understand why he was being charged with eight counts of murder. In an interview with the Philadelphia Daily News after his clinic was raided, he described himself as someone who wanted to serve the poor and minorities in the neighborhood where he grew up and raised his six children, who include a doctor and a college professor.
An attorney who filed a malpractice lawsuit for Mongar's family said the governor's moves are a step in the right direction, though they come "too late for my client and for many others."
"I do applaud his efforts because they certainly appear to be comprehensive and well thought out, with provisions for additional changes, regulations and procedures," attorney Bernard Smalley told The Associated Press.
A Corbett aide identified the employees who left the state work force on Friday but would not specify who had been fired and who resigned.
Corbett said some people have been suspended while they investigate further. Corbett press secretary Kevin Harley later added that some people involved in the probe remain on the job because they "have certain rights" as union members.
Corbett described as "speculation" one of the grand jury's most explosive findings: that political considerations involving the issue of abortion led state regulators in the 1990s to cease systematic inspections of abortion facilities.
The 300-page grand jury report that led to the charges against Gosnell, his wife and his former employees said state regulators ignored complaints about him and the clinic. The jury also said testimony by some Department of Health officials "enraged" them.
Department of State supervisory lawyer Chuck Hartwell said he was given a letter that said his services were no longer required. Hartwell, who worked for the state for 12 years, did not immediately respond to additional e-mailed questions.
Basil Merenda, who was secretary of state at the end of Gov. Ed Rendell's administration, said he was terminated on Friday. Like Hartwell, he was told his services were no longer needed.
Merenda, a former deputy attorney general in New Jersey, said that he did not appear before the grand jury and that Corbett's aides did not speak to him as part of their internal review.
Merenda, who had most recently been working as a hearing examiner, said the state Board of Medicine, on which he served, never got a case against Gosnell from the agency's prosecuting lawyers.
"Do you think for one minute that if I had known what was going on with the Gosnell complaints that I would have tolerated that? Come on," Merenda said. "You can't say I was involved in the Gosnell matter when I had absolutely no input."
The other four who resigned or were dismissed on Friday, according to Harley, were Department of State attorney Mark Greenwald and Department of Health senior counsel Kenneth Brody, chief counsel Christine Dutton and deputy secretary for quality assurance Stacy Mitchell. Messages left for Brody and Dutton were not immediately returned; home numbers for Greenwald and Mitchell could not be located.