Dr. Oxiris Barbot, NYC Health Department Commissioner (Barry Williams/for New York Daily News)
An NYPD move to commandeer a half-million hospital-grade masks at the peak of the coronavirus epidemic set off a heated war of words between the city’s health commissioner and the police department’s top cop, sources say.
The standoff over the in-demand N-95 masks —headed for the swamped hospital and health care workers overwhelmed by a daily flood of COVID-19 patients — came in mid-March when cops showed up unnannounced at an out-of-state FEMA warehouse and demanded the protective gear.
Department of health workers at the warehouse were shocked at the demand and called Dr. Oxiris Barbot, who got on the phone with NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan.
The two had a “heated exchange, and at one point, Barbot snapped “I don’t give two rats’ asses about your cops," sources said.
Cops remained at the warehouse for several hours while the two honchos hashed it out, one source said.
Health Department spokesman Patrick Gallahue didn’t deny Barbot made the off-color remarks when asked by the Daily News Wednesday night, but said she and Monahan “have a good working relationship.”
“During the height of COVID, while our hospitals were battling to keep patients alive, there was a heated exchange between the two where things were said out of frustration but no harm was wished on anyone,” he said.
“The Commissioner apologized for her contribution to the exchange, the apology was accepted and agreement was arrived between the two to ensure that respirators were delivered to members of the force.”
Cops were ultimately given between 50,000 and 100,000 respirators from the warehouse.
That didn’t satisfy cops’ unions, who called for Barbot’s firing over her testy remarks.
“A so-called city leader, Dr. Barbot showed her true colors as a cop-hater. Five brave NYPD Detectives died as the DEA searched for protective equipment to purchase for our members while we waited for the city to distribute masks," Detectives Endowment Association President Paul DiGiacomo said Wednesday. “Dr. Oxiris Barbot’s shameful behavior likely contributed to the further spread of this deadly virus.”
The Sergeants Benevolent Association blasted Barbot on its Twitter feed, and also criticized Monahan for staying silent about the exchange.
“Truth is this b---- has blood on her hands but why should anyone be surprised the NYPD has suffered under DeBlasio since he became Mayor,” reads a Tweet on the union’s official account. Union President Ed Mullins also called for her immediate ouster if reports of her remarks are true.
“Despicable and unforgivable,” Police Benevolent Association President Patrick Lynch said Wednesday night. "Dr. Barbot should be forced to look in the eye of every police family who lost a hero to this virus. Look them in the eye and tell them they aren’t worth a rat’s ass. She should have been fired the moment she uttered those words. She must resign or be fired immediately now.”
Democrat Rep. Max Rose, who represents Staten Island and part of Brooklyn joined the chorus calling for her firing Wednesday night.
Barbot, who had previously served as first deputy commissioner, was appointed to lead the health department in Dec. 2018, after been the acting head of the department since the retirement of former commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett earlier that year.
A native of the Bronx and a pediatrician, Barbot previously served as medical director for New York City’s schools and as Baltimore’s health commissioner from 2010 to 2014.
The NYPD declined comment Wednesday night.