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DHEC worker accused of profiting from TB outbreak

COLUMBIA (AP) — A former South Carolina health department nurse has accused another health worker of trying to profit from an outbreak of tuberculosis at a Greenwood County school, according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday.

The lawsuit accuses Shea Rabley of setting up a tuberculosis consulting business after the outbreak was detected at Greenwood County’s Ninety Six Primary School.

The allegations are part of former DHEC nurse Latrinia Richard’s lawsuit. Richard initially sued the department earlier this year, saying she was wrongly fired after DHEC officials didn’t heed her warnings about the outbreak.

Richard says she told DHEC officials at the agency’s Columbia headquarters about the outbreak in March but that the department didn’t test anyone for months, or order Richard to do so. But in a June 11 letter, Richard’s supervisors said she was being fired for using “poor professional judgment” in not testing students herself as soon as the initial tuberculosis case — a school employee — was identified.

Richard also said she tried to handle the outbreak and issue a public health order but was thwarted by Rabley.

A DHEC spokesman declined to comment on Richard’s accusations.

Rabley, according to Richard’s latest allegations, set up a business called S&T TB Consulting LLC in May — two months after tuberculosis was initially detected in Greenwood County.

An online listing with the South Carolina Secretary of State’s Office doesn’t specify exactly what the business does. Business records listed its address the same as Rabley’s home, where there was no answer Wednesday.

A woman answering a DHEC work listing in Rabley’s name said she no longer worked for the department.

But in her lawsuit, Richard says Rabley, who set up the business with another unidentified person, unlawfully diverted time and attention away from her DHEC duties to the newly formed private company.

Hundreds of people connected with the school have been tested for tuberculosis, and a dozen have developed the disease. One contagious adult is confined at home, and another has been ordered by state health officials to stay at a medical lockdown unit until the infection passes.

The state health department and Greenwood County education officials are also facing other lawsuits accusing them of not moving quickly enough to contain the outbreak.

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