Governor Urged to Veto Health Department Reorganization

Governor Rick Scott is being urged by a number of health professionals to veto legislation reorganizing the Florida Department of Health.

The former health officers site the closing of the states only TB hospital, cost shifting, and a change in mission as reasons for the Governor to say no.

The 161 page bill closes the state’s only TB hospital, AG Holley in South Florida. The 500 bed facility is expensive and houses just an average of 30 people. But opponents of the closing, like Richard Polangin, say it will place the rest of Florida in danger. “It serves the very hard to treat tuberculosis patients, those with drug resistant tuberculosis and those who are ordered by a court to be treated until they are cured because they are non-compliant with taking medications.”

Former health officials have written Governor Rick Scott urging a veto of the legislation. In addition to closing the TB hospital, they are concerned the Department of Health will no longer be required by law to promote healthy lifestyles.

Brad Ashwell represents the Florida Public Interest Research Group. “It basically undermines the Department of Health’s role in promoting public health.”

The legislation also ends a controversial septic tank inspection plan, shifting the job of inspecting septic tanks to county governments.

Under the current law, if someone shows up here at the health department because they’re too afraid to see their own doctor about a sexually transmitted disease, the health department will treat them, and then send the bill to the insurance company. Under the new law, taxpayers will eat the cost.”

Sponsor Rep. Matt Hudson of Naples says the legislation will focus the department on its core mission. “I know this bill will go a long way to promote public health, bring about better health outcomes.”

Rick Scott has until April 28th to decide if the changes should become law.
While opponents say the bill could be the end of promoting healthy lifestyles, the sponsor says the promotion is allowed in different statutes.

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