Lawmakers Call for Investigation: Democrats Blast 'Reckless' Closing of TB Hospital
Some Florida lawmakers are urging Gov. Rick Scott to create a panel to investigate a Jacksonville TB outbreak - a matter of contention after the state’s only TB hospital recently shut down.
State Sen. Mack Bernard (D-West Palm Beach) said had he known about the Jacksonville outbreak, he would not have voted for the Department of Health reorganization bill, whose provisions included shutting down the A.G. Holley Hospital in Lantana. Scott signed the bill into law, and A.G. Holley closed this month.
“It is outrageous that they would hide that information or not give that information to us before we voted,” said Bernard, who is running for election in the district where A.G. Holley is located. Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Delray), who is running in a nearby district, called the hospital’s closure “reckless.”
The bill’s Senate and House sponsors maintain that state officials have responded appropriately to the outbreak, which did not justify keeping the hospital open.
State health officials sought CDC’s assistance in February after cases of the TB strain FL 046, first linked to a schizophrenic patient in 2008, grew from 10 cases in 2010 to 30 last year. Now linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, the Jacksonville outbreak is the nation’s worst investigated by CDC in the past two decades.
“This cluster didn’t start recently,” said Rene Garcia (R-Hialeah), chair of the Senate Health Regulation Committee, who said he knew of the outbreak during debate on the bill. “This has been going on since 2008,” Garcia said. “Ever since that point, the numbers have remained steady. So I think the Department of Health has gotten control over it.”
Florida has contracted with Shands Jacksonville and Jackson Memorial in Miami to treat patients who used to go to A.G. Holley. Other TB patients in Jacksonville are in motels, where nurses can oversee their care.
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