Rick Scott Shuts Down TB Hospital Amid ‘Worst Outbreak in 20 Years’
Welcome to Sunshine State: Republican-run since 1998, tea party-controlled since 2010, and fast becoming one of the lowest-service states in the nation. Which helps explain how lawmakers shut down its only tuberculosis clinic last month, just as the worst outbreak of the infectious disease in America’s recent history flared up with a vengeance in Jacksonville, Miami, and who knows where else—an outbreak that state and local officials sat on until last month, according to an investigation published by the Palm Beach Post.
Tuberculosis—the lung-liquefying disease of “consumption”—is the world’s second-biggest killer, but had been largely eradicated in America in the early 20th century, owing to improvements in health services. A few flareups, mostly of foreign origin and mostly affecting indigent populations, continued to occur sporadically in the US, which was why Florida in 1950 opened the AG Holley State Hospital in Lantana, just west of Palm Beach. AG Holley’s website (which has since been taken down by the state) billed the facility as “the only public health hospital in Florida,” a safe place where TB victims could be quarantined and cured, and one of the last such facilities in the US.
Last spring, however, the GOP-dominated Legislature voted to shutter the hospital as a cost-saving measure. The state’s governor, former health care executive Rick Scott, signed the bill in April and even pressed for AG Holley’s closure to be moved up six months; the facility was permanently shuttered on July 2.
But what was Scott thinking? According to the Palm Beach Post exposé, AG Holley’s closure came after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had warned the governor and his state health office in a report that tuberculosis was making a big comeback in the state.