Florida Squashed News of Worst TB Outbreak in Decades, Made Worse By Budget Cuts
Budget cuts, lack of public services for the homeless and the mentally ill: these are huge problems tied into austerity's inevitable losses of support networks, losses that utterly devastate individual lives. But the ending of these services also has drastic public health consequences. Witness Florida, where a TB outbreak was hushed up by authorities. The outbreak itself was exacerbated by a total dearth of services for marginalized members of the population and a relentless drive towards budget slashing which moved forward despite the growing threat.
Most of the victims of the disease were poor and black, homeless or mentally ill, groups neglected by the authorities until it was too late.
Every paragraph in this article in the Palm Beach Post is cringe-inducing:
The CDC officer had a serious warning for Florida health officials in April: A tuberculosis outbreak in Jacksonville was one of the worst his group had investigated in 20 years. Linked to 13 deaths and 99 illnesses, including six children, it would require concerted action to stop.
That report had been penned on April 5, exactly nine days after Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill that shrank the Department of Health and required the closure of the A.G. Holley State Hospital in Lantana, where tough tuberculosis cases have been treated for more than 60 years.
As health officials in Tallahassee turned their focus to restructuring, Dr. Robert Luo’s 25-page report describing Jacksonville’s outbreak — and the measures needed to contain it – went unseen by key decision makers around the state. At the health agency, an order went out that the TB hospital must be closed six months ahead of schedule.
This story is Dickensian both in a real sense (TB was a major health threat in Victorian England) and also in the bureaucratic bungling and callousness shown by authorities. The Office of Circumlocution would be proud.
The outbreak remains far from contained, but the public didn't know about it until recently. Read the full story.