Thursday, August 8, 2013

DHEC fumbles TB outbreak, here's how to fix it

Patient Zero to Hero

Posted by Chris Haire on Thu, Aug 8, 2013 at 7:32 AM

click to enlarge Templeton - SCDHEC
  • SCDHEC
  • Templeton
By now, you know that an Upstate community has been hit hard by an outbreak of tuberculosis, and few if anyone doubts that the S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control really dropped the ball.

According to numerous reports, DHEC higher ups knew a staffer at a Greenwood County school had contracted TB and refused treatment. However, the head of DHEC, Catherine Templeton, says that she didn't know anything about the TB case until two months after the launch of the initial investigation, a claim that reeks of pass-the-buck dubiousness. The State reports:

In the Greenwood case, one of the main questions centers on what Templeton knew about the investigation and when. The agency’s director said she didn’t learn about problems with the disease probe until visiting a department health clinic May 20 and 21, even though the investigation had started around March 8.

But records obtained recently by The State newspaper show that one of Templeton’s most trusted aides, health director Jamie Shuster, knew about the investigation as early as April 17. Emails show Shuster resisted requests by other agency staffers to notify the public at the time. DHEC didn’t tell parents until May 28 and didn’t test children for tuberculosis until May 31 – a delay that has upset scores of parents worried about their children’s health.

Lourie, a member of the committee holding Thursday’s hearing, said it’s hard for him to understand how Templeton could have been left in the dark about the investigation if Shuster was aware of the probe in mid-April. Templeton hired Shuster, a former staff member to Gov. Nikki Haley, soon after taking over at DHEC in March 2012.

Lourie also said he has seen evidence that the agency’s media relations department was aware of the investigation long before the public was notified.

Now, you know me, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt. As a liberal, I'm an appeaser at heart. I like to take villains at their word, no matter how villainous they been in the past. So, in this case, it should come as no surprise to you that I believe Catherine Templeton. In fact, I know exactly how all of this happened and how to fix it.

See, Templeton may run DHEC and DHEC may be based out of Columbia, along with all the other state agencies, but Catherine Templeton doesn't live in Columbia. She lives right here in Charleston, 114 miles away. With that in mind, it's easy to see how she was out of the loop, and frankly, this is not the way it should be.

Fortunately, I've got a solution: Let's just move all state agencies to Charleston. Hell, let's move the Statehouse and governor's mansion while we're at it. I'm sure it'll make Catherine Templeton happy.

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