State senators demanded answers from leaders involved in the Greenwood County tuberculosis outbreak, though many said they were left with more questions when the hearing was over.
The state Senate subcommittee hearing Thursday featured testimony from the Director of the Department of Health and Environmental Control, Catherine Templeton, along with other officials from DHEC, Greenwood County School District 52 and even parents affected by the outbreak.
Templeton took the brunt of the questions and some attacks on her reputation, to which she replied, "We've held people accountable, for which I do not apologize."
Thursday's meeting was organized by state Sen. Floyd Nicholson, who represents Greenwood.
"Mistakes were made ... how can we correct those mistakes as we get ready to go forward into a new school year, and to make sure another thing like this doesn't happen in another part of the state?" Nicholson asked.
During the hearing, new details about the outbreak were released, including the update that those who had the contagious form of TB are no longer infectious but are still being treated. The index patient who was the janitor at Ninety Six Primary School is still under medical quarantine.
Also at the meeting were three Upstate nurses fired by DHEC in the wake of the outbreak and investigation. Templeton said the firings came because the women worked too slowly in the investigation and violated policy.
The nurses watched as senators cited email after email showing they were the ones asking for help.
"My clients were giving the absolute direct information that was supposed to go up the ladder," said attorney John Reckenbeil, who is representing the nurses. "And it's very apparent in this hearing that there is something major, major broken in the middle part of DHEC."
Templeton said the nurses will have to work through the legal system to get their jobs back - and if they do, she said she will own up to it.
A teacher at Ninety Six Primary School, where the outbreak took place, spoke at the hearing too. Robin Cobb is also the mother of a student who is sick with TB.
"It was heart-wrenching when my 8-year-old, who was experiencing painful and nauseating side effects from the TB medication asked, 'Mom, is this going to kill me?'" Cobb said.
Some parents who made the trip from Columbia to attend the hearing said they did not get much out of it.
"It's like I wasted a whole day to come here and do this," said Ed Rushton, a parent of a Ninety Six Primary student.
"There are some people who will never be satisfied, but by golly we will keep trying," Templeton said.
The response did not end after Thursday's hearing. DHEC said there will be another round of TB testing before school starts at District 52 on August 20.
The district superintendent said the school has been disinfected, even though it did not have to be.
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