Florida’s last tuberculosis sanatorium, Lantana’s A.G. Holley Hospital, would close in January under legislation approved 86-28 Friday by the state House.
Holley’s shuttering has been proposed for most of the past decade. But House Health Care budget chief Matt Hudson, R-Naples, said it was time to move forward with closing a facility he said costs $10 million annually to operate and typically serves no more than 30 patients.
“It’s time we dust off those plans and go to work,” Hudson said about the proposals for shutting down Holley.
Under the bill (CS/HB 1263), the state’s Department of Health would be charged with drafting a transition plan by May for steering patients from Holley to community hospitals.
Earlier versions of that approach date to at least 2008, when the Legislature directed DOH to find a new way to treat tuberculosis patients, while also outsourcing their management to a private vendor, records show. When no qualified vendors came forward, the Legislature in 2010 ordered DOH to develop a plan to find community hospitals willing to isolate and care for patients.
Lantana town officials also are eager to obtain the 144-acre site, which they hope will prove attractive to a company looking to relocate to the area.
The proposal still must clear the Senate, which so far has shown little interest in the wide-ranging bill. Along with closing Holley, the measure revamps the duties of the state surgeon general and repeals a statewide septic-tank inspection program approved by lawmakers only two years ago.
Critics say the bill also limits the department’s focus on disease-prevention and education programs.
But Holley, the last of the state’s four TB hospitals opened between 1938 and 1952, has drawn much of the focus. The legislation in the House advanced over opposition from several health advocates, who said closing Lantana hospital would threaten care for a few dozen seriously ill patients who also pose a public health risk.
In a committee hearing earlier this week, Dr. Paul Arons, former director of the state’s HIV-AIDs program, called Holley a “unique institution.”
”It treats the hardest of the hard patients,” he said.
Arons said 40 percent of Holley’s tuberculosis patients also have HIV, making them particularly frail and complicated to treat. He labeled the House proposal “puzzling and troubling.”