Confirmation Of Legionnaire’s Disease At LL VA Hospital

Patients at the Jerry L. Pettis Medical Center who were being cared for there over the last ten months have potentially been exposed to the bacteria that causes Legionnaires disease, it has now been acknowledged.
That bacteria known as Legionella was confirmed as being present in the institution’s water system Wednesday, ten months after medical professionals there gave indication of their suspicions there might be a Legionella bacteria outbreak. In early May, a group of employees at the hospital filed a federal whistleblower complaint against hospital officials alleging that they were avoiding coming to terms with the problem. That complaint alleged “gross mismanagement, abuse of authority, gross waste of funds, and substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.”
Wade J. Habshey, a spokesperson for Pettis Medical Center, downplayed the report.
“Veterans Administration takes Legionella prevention very seriously,” Habshey asserted at the time. “Our staff is trained on prevention of Legionella and the elimination of the conditions under which Legionella grows. We have a zero history of hospital-acquired Legionella cases.”
Subsequent tests found trace amounts of Legionella bacteria in the water system.
“This does not mean there is a Legionella outbreak,” Habshey said in a follow-up statement.
Legionnaires’ disease, so named because of a 1976 incident at an American Legion convention held at the Bellevue-Stratford Hotel in Philadelphia during which 182 attendees contracted the disease and 29 of them died, is a severe form of pneumonia that can be contracted by inhaling the contagion in droplet, mist or vapor form.
Curiously, despite the VA Hospital’s denials, the VA quietly solicited bids for Legionella mitigation for the entire Loma Linda health care system in February.
Those mitigation efforts are now under way, as evidenced by out-of-service signs that have been placed in front of quarantined rooms. Several of the institution’s drinking fountains have also been shut off.
According to the May 3 complaint, the hospital’s administration knew of the Legionella condition last year but did not notify the medical staff and did not correct the problem, while denying the proliferation of bacteria at the facility.
-Mark Gutglueck

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