wheezing to glory

Big ‘La Boheme’ Fan Rick Scott Closes TB Hospital During TB Outbreak

Sweet clip art, broTuberculosis used to be cool, man, back when it was called “consumption” and badasses like Doc Holliday died from it. Everything used to cooler back in the day when people just dropped dead in the street from disease and whatnot, right? Well, if that’s the kind of thrill you’re after, set your GPS for Jacksonville and go hang out with some homeless people, because the worst TB outbreak in 20 years is going strong there, just in time for the state’s only TB hospital to shut down! But why is Rick Scott keeping this outbreak a secret? Does he want Florida’s lucrative disease-tourism industry to flounder?

If you want to be super-depressed about America and humanity, here, read this long Palm Beach Post article about the Florida TB outbreak, since its story is thoroughly entwined with the story of America’s treatment of the homeless and mentally ill. Basically, Patient Zero for the current epidemic was a schizophrenic who “circulated from hospital to jail to homeless shelter to assisted living facility, living in dorm housing in many locations,” coughing all the while (the coughing is documented!) before being properly diagnosed.

The good news is that this isn’t a drug-resistant strain of TB. The bad news is that the regimen of drugs to treat TB is complicated and difficult for the homeless and mentally ill to follow. But, once Patient Zero was diagnosed, he was sent to A.G. Holley, the state’s specialized tuberculosis hospital. Later, once the state realized it had a growing crisis on its hands, they did the logical thing and shut this TB hospital down! But don’t worry, Florida is just consolidating its health services, and the lawmakers who spearheaded this decision were well aware of the challenges Florida faced.

Meanwhile the champion of the health agency consolidation, Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples, said he had not been informed of the Jacksonville outbreak and the CDC’s role as of Friday.

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Well, but, um, surely Florida’s other top-notch hospitals can pick up the slack.

Last week, with A.G. Holley now closed, one [TB patient] was sent to Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami. The ones who will stay put in Jacksonville are being put up in motels, to make it easier for public health nurses to find them, Duval County health officials said.

Also, the Florida government says it didn’t release any information about the outbreak because they didn’t want Floridians to be any more disgusted by the homeless than they already are. Which is kind of nice, we guess? Meanwhile, Appalachian states, eager to compete in the “outbreaks of lung diseases you thought were eradicated” Olympiad, are seeing outbreaks of Black Lung, because it turns out that burdensome government workplace regulations (on coal dust exposure, say) aren’t so burdensome when they aren’t enforced. Happy coughing yourselves to death, everybody! [Palm Beach Post/NPR]

Josh Fruhlinger is the author of the upcoming novel The Enthusiast. Will pre-ordering it cure your lungs from what ails them? The FDA says no, but we say yes! Read the first chapter or just head on over to Kickstarter to reserve a copy!

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About the author

Josh was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, leaving him with a love of chicken wings and a tendency to say “pop”. He taught ancient Greek and Roman history to undergraduates before fleeing from academia in terror; worked for a failed San Francisco dot-com that neglected to supply him with stock options or an Aeron chair; lived in Berlin, where he mostly ate Indian and Ethiopian food; finished in third place on his sole Jeopardy! appearance (the correct answer was “Golda Meir”); and was named 2007 Blogger of the Year by The Week, for obvious reasons. Josh is the creator/editor of COMICS CURMUDGEON (which you should read) and does geeky editing and writing about geeky things such as "the Java programming industry for JavaWorld." He lives in Baltimore with his wife Amber and his cat Hoagie.

View all articles by Josh Fruhlinger

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159 comments

    1. Lascauxcaveman

      GOP Health Care Plan:

      1) Don't get sick
      2) If you do get sick, die quickly

      - former FL Rep Alan Grayson (D)

    2. Infrogmation

      I predict we will NOT see a return to Dark Ages "Bring out your dead" carts in the streets. Because dead carts = SOCIALISM! The dead shouldn't be coddled, they need to show initiative and bury themselves.

        1. rickmaci

          But she is such a drama queen. "I think I love you, I don't love you, I love you, I'm dead." SMH.

  1. Texan_Bulldog

    It's all fun and games until people from Topeka don't want to bring their little darlings (& spend about $8K) to Disney World just to watch Mickey cough up a lung.

    1. fartknocker

      Brilliant! I think I'll ask Mickey about building an Abortionplex on Disney property. That would fit perfectly into my theme park scheme.

    2. Guppy

      They're also not too keen on visiting "Orlando Beach" either, but you don't see Florida giving a damn about climate change permanently high tides.

    3. Veritas78

      Also, you can now catch dengue fever in Key West.

      You can't do anything about it except hope you'll die rather than suffer its excruciating symptoms. Sounds ideal for Florida's health care industry.

  2. actor212

    The ones who will stay put in Jacksonville are being put up in motels, to make it easier for public health nurses to find them, Duval County health officials said.

    And so the incentive for them to continue treatment is….?

    I mean, homeless, has TB, gets a motel room, presumably with cable and porn channels, and all because the hospitals no longer exist. If he gets better, he gets discharged.

    I'm missing the logic here.

      1. sewollef

        Of course, I'm assuming that these nurses walk to the 'motels' or bicycle or pay for gas using their own cars, right?

        I mean given they shut the only TB hospital presumably to save money, how else would they get there?

      1. rickmaci

        F* it. If you are going to go backwards, why only go back one century when you can go 2 with no more effort.

      2. FraAnima

        Come to Dickensland. Kids can work in a real factory with open machinery. Lose a limb – no extra charge! All the gruel you can eat as long as you don't ask for more.

    1. Antispandex

      They are really just slackers. A REAL goal would be to aim for the middle ages. Now that's when a disease was a disease.

  3. Isyaignert

    Florida – That's what you get when you elect a CONVICTED FELON as your Governor. Fumducks!!!

    1. Rosie_Scenario

      Elected by a very slim margin and he acts like he has a mandate. He spent lots on TV commercials and refused to talk answer questions re: Medicare fraud. AND Florida does not have the ability to recall the governor. We must wait until next election, unless the press does its job and publishes the dirt that no doubt exists. Woodward and Bernstein?

    2. Selfish_T

      Let's be fair . . . he was just the in charge of the corporation that that committed and was convicted of all those felonies, and had to pay out the largest fraud settlement in US history. Ho-hum, no biggie! Scott even got paid millions and millions of dollars in the deal, for fraud.

      1. Veritas78

        And at least he's in the right industry, so he's had a quicker learning curve. Imagine if he had been running rum, or the bunko con, or safe-cracking, or working the second-story.

  4. SayItWithWookies

    Hey, Rick Fuckin' Scott worked in healthcare, dammit — which means he knows how to heal the sick. Exactly the same way that businessman Mitt Romney knows how to create jobs.

    1. Terry

      The problem is his approach to healing the sick involves laying on of hands and not so much for patent medicine like antibiotics and the like.

    1. Infrogmation

      Big Government Tax & Spend Commie expecting the public sector to provide a wagon for hauling off your dead! Don't raise taxes on our nation's Feudalism Creators!

  5. Barb

    America is inching closer to the point where Somalia is going to start to send us money for relief aid.

        1. Barb

          Soros, if this shit keeps up Madonna is going to start adopting kids from this country instead.

  6. ChernobylSoup

    Whenever Little Rock has a big convention coming to town, they give each homeless person a $20 bill and a bus ticket to Houston. Florida should try that.

    1. Dashboard Buddha

      That's something like what they did with the Cuban boat lift. Food, shoes, temporary shelter, a bus ticket and a list of states with better welfare than Florida.

    2. finallyhappy

      other cities in New Jersey give the homeless(and released prisoners, too- I think) bus tickets to Atlantic City

    3. Antispandex

      That wouldn't be right. They have to want to help themselves. Just drive them to the state line and give them a good shove.

  7. BarackMyWorld

    Is today's theme going to be "Republican Governors Suck"? Because they sure fucking do.

  8. SorosBot

    He's just following the example of how the great hero Reagan dealt with the mentally ill and AIDS victims.

    1. boobookitteh

      Reagan at least had the foresight to throw people into the streets who didn't have diseases that spread by breathing.

  9. Poindexter718

    Send the tuberculer layabouts to Tampa Bay by Aug. 27; huge number of seasonal extra jerbs in the food service and sex worker industries there at that time.

  10. rickmaci

    A nice little "tourists should boycott Florida until that state can get its shit together" response would probably make the Republitards in Tallahassee cough up some dough for treatment.

  11. Goonemeritus

    Drug resistant TB will eventually cause us to quarantine Florida so this isn’t all bad news.

  12. SorosBot

    Tuberculosis is too old-fashioned anyway; I liked it better when it was changed to AIDS and the insufferable pretentious artsy types sang the rock instead.

  13. ManchuCandidate

    Coincides with Diznee's new attraction, "It's a Sick World After All" where touristas can contract various diseases from Florida residents including the more common Clap, Herpes and Syph and now TB!

  14. Allmighty_Manos

    What the story fails to mention is Gov. Scott's controlling interest in the Bring Out Your Dead Body Collection Agency Inc.

  15. Chow Yun Flat

    Doctors Without Borders says: (TB) disease that primarily affects the most vulnerable layers of society: the unemployed, the homeless, drug addicts, and, of course, prisoners. However, once a certain level of epidemic has been reached, the transmission of TB escalates and anyone, regardless of his or her social class, can contract the disease.

    Rick Scott really is as stupid as he seems.

  16. OneYieldRegular

    I am so going to cough all over Rick Scott if I ever have the misfortune of meeting him in person.

  17. boobookitteh

    Today is going to be the day I'm annoyed because people in power don't understand how "Public Health" works, isn't it?

      1. boobookitteh

        Well then they don't know shit about history, because even a cursory glance at the history of disease tells us that viruses and bacteria don't discriminate. Eventually they find their way to almost everybody.

  18. Callyson

    But…but…but Rick Scott was in the health care field, right? Making him the perfect person to come up with a sound solution to this problem?

    What's that, Wikipedia?

    On March 19, 1997, investigators from the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services served search warrants at Columbia/HCA facilities in El Paso and on dozens of doctors with suspected ties to the company. The Columbia/HCA board of directors pressured Scott to resign as Chairman and CEO following the inquiry. He was paid $9.88 million in a settlement. He also left owning 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million.

    Christ, I want a drink already…

    1. sewollef

      "He was paid $9.88 million in a settlement. He also left owning 10 million shares of stock worth over $350 million."

      OK…. I'm trying to get my head around this. With all that dosh in his bank, Rick Scott thought it'd be a great idea to run for governor. Of Florida. Why?

      So, he woke up one morning and thought, 'Dear me. How the hell am I gonna earn a crust?' He actually thought that…. really… with all that money?

      Me, I'd have bought a great place in Napa or Sonoma Valley, with gorgeous views of vineyards, even dabbled in viniculture, or paid for someone to teach me to play guitar and build myself a cute little recording studio.

      But no, not Rick Scott…. he thought the height of smarts was to bugger off to a stinking, swampy cesspit of a state, run for office, get paid a pissy $132,932 for all the aggravation…. and then be — rightly — ridiculed by all stripes of progressives for the mental defective douche he obviously is.

      Am I missing something?

  19. Hedley_Lamarr

    Prince Prospero and his courtiers are safe behind the walls of the palace, while the serfs fall prey to the Red Death.__Republican Health Care Plan 2012.

  20. ChessieNefercat

    This article is very misleading! It suggests that there is some sort of respiratory crisis in the making and that people with the power to do something about it, aren't.

    For instance: "Happy coughing yourselves to death, everybody!" This suggests that anybody can catch TB or black lung, when in fact, only "those people" catch such things, because there is zero chance that "those people" will ever have any contact with, well, us. Don't believe me? When has there ever in recorded history been a respiratory pandemic that wiped out millions of people regardless of social status? Hmm? Can't think of one, can you?

    Also, too? Those miners choose to go into those mines, coal dust and all. To enforce regulations would cost the mine owners money and then obscene profits would stop trickling down onto the miners, who would no longer rank among the wealthiest people in America. I mean, don't most people think "coal miner" when they hear "1 percenter"?

    /snark

    Seriously, what the fuck is wrong with this country? Really? WTF? Did our national motto change when I wasn't looking, to "Life is nasty, brutish, and short (for 99% of you, anyway) and we are here to prove it"?

  21. sullivanst

    See no evil, Hear no evil, Speak no evil, Treat no evil.

    Hey, if there's no hospital for it, that must mean nobody's sick, right? Right? Guys?

  22. MumbletyRadio

    Richard Allen, a federal mine inspector underground when the 1969 law first took effect, says he remembers a strange question from a Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) investigator about a carpet's color in a coal mine manager's office.
    "It was blue and [MSHA was finding] little blue fibers in each [mine dust] sample," Allen says. "[Investigators] cross-referenced the fibers in these samples to that carpet and found that he was sampling in his office" and not deep inside the mine.

    All I need to make myself more stabby after reading that, is to remember how many of these mine moguls doing the dirty deeds at the expense of their workers' coaldust-smudged respiratory systems, have thrived in those same regions of my home state of Virginia whose general assembly voted early in the McDonnell* administration to axe one of two publicly-funded mental health hospitals for adolescents in the entire state. Just to draw another parallel with Floriduh's tough-love approach to its healthcare facilities in time of acute crisis!

    *ETA: to be fair, it was while Kaine was in office that his administration proposed the shuttering of both hospitals. The fact that one survived doesn't lessen the point however: poor, underserved areas will continue to be deprived of resources (families in remote SW Va must drive their kids hundreds of miles to be treated at the sparse facilities still available) and given lip service whenever advocacy for their rights even gains a toehold.

    1. sullivanst

      It's unclear what happened with vigorous criminal prosecution after 2002.

      I've got a pretty good fucking idea what happened and why.

      In the last three years, a new MSHA enforcement effort called "dust busters" targeted mines with coal dust problems.

      I wonder what changed between 2002 and "three years ago". I know I know it, just can't quite put my finger on it…

  23. mavenmaven

    Apparently the right wing doesn't believe in evolution, yet they are big time social darwinists. Too bad that's as valid as their other beliefs, like eugenics and trickle down economics.

  24. finallyhappy

    DC used to require(maybe still does) annual TB tests if your child was in school there- when my kids were in Montgomery co, MD schools- we never had another test. When I am on Metro- if someone sitting near me coughs twice- I move. I get colds really easily- TB- I'd probably be dead in a week.

    1. ShreditorsDesk

      Arlington too, but in the 60s it was still a prevalent threat nationwide. Today, it may be again, thanks to GOP stupidity, yet another national health crisis.

  25. Antispandex

    Ah, TB and Black Lung. This has to warm the hearts of every republican who has been wishing for a return to the good old days. I guess if they die, it's just because it's god's will?

  26. fartknocker

    Irony alert: Dr. John Gorrie , a Florida physician invented a form of refrigeration using isentropic expansion to cool TB patients in hospitals in 1842. I guess Governor Goat fuck missed that little factoid.

  27. An_Outhouse

    After Partners in Health are done curing Haiti, maybe they can set up a clinic in Florida.

  28. IncenseDebate

    It used to be the TB Devil Rays, then they changed it to the TB Rays, because Jeebus.

    1. BornInATrailer

      And what is sad is that isn't just a myth. At least a portion of the motivation behind the name change was due to pressure from religious organizations in FL. Even though it is the name of a fish (which, yes, is named for the little fleshy horn-looking devil-esque protrusions).

      And this is why, for several (four? five?) years now, I've referred to them as the Tampa Bay Christ Fuckers in protest.

  29. Dashboard Buddha

    "Because government isn't the solution to our problems, it is the problem…and now you have cholera."

  30. Chow Yun Flat

    Florida "public health" officials (to misuse the term) decided not to publicize an outbreak of TB in 2008, possibly not to alarm tourists although they claim it was to not stigmatize the homeless.

    Sounds like Jaws with germs instead of a big shark.

    1. ChernobylSoup

      I wonder if Florida has a whistle-blower protection law. You know there were some intra-agency pissing matches over that decision.

  31. BigSkullF*ckingDog

    TB is boring. What happened to all of those exciting tropical diseases that were supposed to make us all bleed out of our butts and eyeballs?

  32. Doktor Zoom

    I said it in the goatherding thread and I'll say it again here: NPR's Howard Berkes, the lead reporter on that cheerful "resurgence of black lung disease" series, is a goddamned Superhero Of Journalism. The work he's done on this story and on Massey Coal's malfeasance in the Big Branch mine explosion is the kind of thing they used to make "crusading reporter" movies about.

    1. sullivanst

      If I were him I'd probably have one of those mirrors on sticks to check under the car every morning and evening. The Massey folks are not nice people.

  33. YasserArraFeck

    Tee Bee, Schmee Bee – we got Black Lung here in Coal Country. Suck on that, Floriduh…..if you can catch your breath……

  34. anniegetyerfun

    "The ones who will stay put in Jacksonville are being put up in motels, to make it easier for public health nurses to find them, Duval County health officials said."

    According to Barbara Bush, this is probably the best life these people have ever led, so we shouldn't feel bad.

  35. An_Outhouse

    Why don't my winger relatives ever send around chain emails proclaiming:
    TB OUTBREAK IN FLORIDA.
    DON'T VACATION IN FLORIDA
    PROTECT YOUR FAMILY

    They could even blame it on Cuba.

  36. barto

    TB: tje new "invisible hand"!

    these cases will quickly develop into MDR TB if the patients' are not fully supported in completing their course of treatment. certainly Rick has made sure that this can't happen, because he cares a lot.

  37. Guppy

    So long as there's still money in the budget to treat STDs in the Villages, it's all good.

  38. Antispandex

    You would have thought all of you bleeding hearts would have learned your lessons from the AIDS thingy. It really isn't an epidemic until a rich, white, hetero gets it. Jeeze, grow up.

  39. neiltheblaze

    You can tell he's into opera – his time in office has been like one giant immolation scene.

  40. elgin_pelican

    Florida's loss is Branson's gain! No Negroes coughing in your face there – in fact, no blah people at all!

  41. elburritodeluxe

    The private sector has the most effective way to cure TB anyway. It's called everybody who gets it dies.

  42. chascates

    Kickstarter does books? Think they'd help raise money for my retirement farm in Washington State (law allows med pot patients to have in possession a 60-day supply, estimated at 24 ounces of usable pot (no stems or trash) PLUS 15 plants!) where I'll raise hops for beer, apples for cider, pigs, and hell?

    1. flamingpdog

      And I was just about to chastize Josh for not pimping his new book on Amazon like the anti-establishment Occupy Wall Streeter did last weekend at teh Wonkette.

  43. Naked_Bunny

    Government regulations are unfair, egregious demands that make it hard for American companies to make a profit due to their enormous cost! Also, they don't work because nobody enforces them! No, my positions aren't contradictory, can't you see my exclamation points??!!

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