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State senator calls for investigation of Florida TB outbreak

1:37 PM, Jul 12, 2012   |    comments
State Sen. Nan Rich says Gov. Scott's administration has not been as forthcoming as it should have been about a tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville: "It was certainly an example of government not in the sunshine."
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Democratic gubernatorial candidate Sen. Nan Rich is calling for a Senate investigation of how Gov. Rick Scott's administration handled the release of information about a serious tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville.

Sen. Rich says state lawmakers were never informed about the outbreak before they voted earlier this year to close the state's only TB hospital.

Thousands of people are believed to have been exposed to tuberculosis during the outbreak in recent years. The state is trying to contact those people to see if they're experiencing any symptoms of TB.

Sen. Rich believes lawmakers should have had all the information about the outbreak before they voted to shut down A.G. Holley Hospital in Lantana.

"I don't know whether legislators would have voted to close it or not, but at least they should have had all the information on which to make the determination. We're learning now that there are something like 3,000 people who have been exposed and only 253 have been screened. So what happens to all the others and what happens to those who have been diagnosed and have really severe cases where they need extreme oversight?"

The tuberculosis outbreak is linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses since 2004.

Sen. Rich accuses the Scott administration of not handling the situation openly. She thinks the Legislature should investigate the situation rather than Scott's office.

"I think it would be a good idea if the Legislature does it. I don't think it's a good idea if the governor and the governor's office does it because it's the fox watching the hen house."

A.G. Holley Hospital closed last week, partly in an effort to save money. Florida health officials argued the facility was outdated and the state could treat TB cases at other hospitals.

However, it looks as though the state won't save any money treating cases of TB at those other hospitals.

Now some patients are being housed in motels, but state health officials say those people are not contagious. Sen. Rich thinks that scenario might have been avoided if A.G. Holley had remained open.

"When I read that people are being housed in motels, maybe A.G. Holley should've stayed open and people should've been brought there for their treatment rather than being placed in a motel. So I think there's a lot that needs to be discussed and there needs to be an avenue to do that. I think it should be through the legislative process."

The Florida Department of Health insists the TB outbreak is under control and does not pose a threat of spreading.

State Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong says Florida did not keep the TB outbreak secret and the state Department of Health worked openly with the CDC, the Duval County Health Department, the Jacksonville Community TB Coalition and local leaders on the problem.

First Coast News

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