You'd like to think that a hospital would be one of the most clean, sterile environments around, considering it is where so many people go to get treatment for infections. And you'd also think that, of all the clean, sterile places within a hospital, its bedrooms, complete with clean sheets and linens, would be high on the list. But according to recent lawsuits, that wouldn't be the case, at least for a few Pittsburgh-area hospitals.
Two wrongful death lawsuits had already been filed against two University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals, linking five deaths to heavy mold growth found in the hospitals' linens. And now a third lawsuit claims mold outbreak has taken another life.
According to an internal report from the university hospital system, the five previous deaths were linked to a mold outbreak due to contaminated linens at two UPMC hospitals, Presbyterian and Montefiore. Although the investigation was conducted in May of last year, the report did not become public until last month when it was submitted by UPMC lawyers as the two previously filed wrongful death lawsuits.
The latest lawsuit alleges another patient, John Haines, contracted a fatal rhizopus-positive pneumonia infection within hours of being admitted at a third UPMC hospital to undergo chemotherapy treatments. Sadly, Shadyside Hospital sent Haines a letter on the morning he died, acknowledging that he had developed an infection and recommending Haines reach out to UPMC's Infection Prevention and Control Department.
The medical center and plaintiffs have also pointed the finger at the company contracted to provide the hospitals with their linens, Paris Healthcare Linen Service. Allegedly, investigators found the same deadly mold at Paris's laundry facility.
Hospitals can be held liable for infectious outbreaks. Hospital staff is responsible for maintaining a sterile working environment, ensuring clean and sterile linens, and properly maintaining and cleaning diagnostic and surgical equipment. If they fail to do this and a patient contracts an infection, the patient may be able to sue the hospital.
Proving hospital liability in infection cases can be difficult, however, as tracking an infection and its cause is tricky. Leave that part to the experts -- if you've been injured while staying at a hospital, contact an experienced personal injury attorney.