Tuesday, February 20, 2018
Opinion

Department of Health under siege

The Florida Department of Health structure has been under siege for well over a decade. This effort has been a slow and effective process due to the lack of skilled leadership in the department and ineffective defenders of their programs. In the past, department staff educated legislators to the importance of Florida's public health initiatives; they have been silenced.

Surgeon General (State Health Officer) appointments have lacked appropriate experience to lead. Administrative infrastructure appointments, particularly the deputies, lack the stature and expertise to argue Health Department responsibilities. Health Department programs have become shooting gallery ducks, too often the victim of conservative politics. As a result, communities are less protected. The loss of department food service oversight is an example.

Much of the picking apart of Health Department regulatory responsibilities is driven by association lobbying groups anxious for tepid oversight. Conservative groups continue to attack women's health programs such as family planning.

The latest effort, Senate Bill 1824, suggests that the surgeon general or state health officer not be the face of Florida's public health effort. If not him or her, then who? The bill would delete language requiring the Health Department to combat disease and disabilities to the fullest extent possible. If not the Department of Health, then who?

Also, written into this bill is the 15-year failed effort to close A.G. Holley State Hospital, the last tuberculosis hospital in the state, with the intent of moving the patients to the private sector. Much of what A.G. Holley does is not profitable and would be a low priority for the private sector. Communities could be at serious risk for unmanaged or poorly followed tuberculosis patients along with compromised case tracking.

Florida ranks fourth in the nation for TB cases. TB is one of the programs that must be the responsibility of the state public health system along with sexually transmitted diseases and other communicable diseases.

Further reorganization is in the offing. The Florida public health effort, previously one of the finest in the nation, will go the way of other states due to shortsightedness, stinginess and a lack of public health leaders able or willing to defend their turf.

Dr. Marc J. Yacht is retired director of the Pasco Health Department.

Comments
Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Editorial: Listen to Marjory Stoneman Douglas students demanding change

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School are traveling to the state capital today and declaring "never again.íí A prominent Florida Republican fundraiser vows he wonít raise another nickel until his party approves new gun controls. Across F...
Published: 02/19/18

Editorial: No more doubt about Russian meddling in election

The latest indictment by the Justice Department special counsel, Robert Mueller, refutes President Donald Trumpís claims that Russian interference in the 2016 election was a Democratic hoax. The indictment details the lengths Russian conspirators too...
Published: 02/19/18
Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Editorial: Trumpís rising deficits and misplaced priorities

Itís not popular in Washington or virtually anywhere else these days to express concern about the rising federal deficit. Congressional Republicans who used to be deficit hawks first voted to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, then rais...
Published: 02/17/18
Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

Editorial: Buckhorn should not appeal verdict in firefighterís case

The city of Tampa should have taken Tanja Vidovic seriously from the start when the Tampa firefighter complained about her treatment in the workplace. Now that a jury and judge have spoken, itís time for City Hall to cut its losses, learn from its mi...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

Editorial: CareerSource troubles mount as public trust drops

The dark cloud enveloping Tampa Bayís job placement centers keeps growing. There are accusations of forged documents, evidence of nepotism and concerns about grossly inflated performance numbers that could be tied to receiving more public money and b...
Published: 02/15/18
Updated: 02/16/18
Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Editorials: Prayers and platitudes after shootings arenít enough

Even before the victims of another mass shooting at another public school were identified, Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi, state legislators and members of Congress rushed to South Florida or to social media to offer their thoughts and p...
Published: 02/15/18
Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

Editorial: DCF review should get to the bottom of Hillsborough foster care issues

The Florida Department of Children and Families is right to call for a timely and "comprehensive" review of Hillsborough Countyís foster care system. Though the probe is a reaction to a recent case involving a child who was left unattended, the revie...
Published: 02/14/18

A Washington Post editorial: Modernize 911 calling before it becomes an emergency

This Friday marks the 50th anniversary of the first 911 emergency call placed in the United States. Since then, uncounted lives have been saved and people helped. It has been a great accomplishment of government.But even as an estimated 240 million 9...
Published: 02/13/18
Updated: 02/14/18
Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Editorial: Scott, Cabinet cannot be trusted on felonsí voting rights

Gov. Rick Scott always has been grudging and imperious about restoring the voting rights of felons, requiring them to wait for years before begging the governor and Cabinet to be recognized again as citizens. That arrogance is on full display in a le...
Published: 02/13/18
Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Another voice: ĎDreamersí donít know whom to trust on immigration

Immigrants brought into this country illegally as children by their parents may be wondering whom to trust. The political theater being played out in Washington hasnít settled the status of either the "Dreamers" or the estimated 11 million other undo...
Published: 02/13/18