JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- After six years at the helm of the Duval County Health Department, Robert Harmon sent a two sentence retirement note to the Florida Surgeon General Dr. John Armstrong, saying it had been an honor to serve the people of Duval County.
No reason given for his sudden departure on Tuesday, still none a day later.
In a Florida Times-Union report Sunday, Harmon's department came under fire for concealing information about three tuberculosis outbreaks in recent years, including the one among Jacksonville's homeless this year that was one of the worst in the country the past 20 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Charles Narrimore is homeless, and believes Harmon should have been fired for not going public about TB among the homeless.
"At least if people had the knowledge, they could have made the choice to stay out of the shelters until they got this stuff under control. The dropped the ball on this one. I have not stayed in a shelter since I heard about the TB cases," said Narrimore.
Ken Covington of the Clara White Mission is chair of the TB Coalition, and was surprised at Harmon's announcement. He had been working closely with Harmon to find TB cases among the homeless.
"Dr. Harmon while he was there addressed the problem. He had his troops, people on the ground, doing what we needed to get done at the time," said Covington.
The interim director of the Duval County Health Department is Dr. Bonnie Sorenson, who is director in Volusia County. She reported to the TB coalition Wednesday that more than 2,800 homeless people and others have have been tested. 359 were positive reactors, but only two active cases have been found.
"That is the good news, so we are rooting out the active TB cases as well as those who have positive responses. We can not only cure the cases of TB, but also provide preventive antibiotics to positive reactors to keep them from ever activating into tuberculosis," said Sorenson.
Sorenson says she doesn't know why Harmon retired, but she promises more communication and transparency from the health department and now that she is here, she is focusing on moving forward.
First Coast News