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Hospital Mold Problems Result in Three Wrongful Death Lawsuits

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A Pennsylvania hospital system faces at least three wrongful death lawsuits that allege patients died due to mold problems. 

The complaints have been filed against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) in recent months, following at least six deaths at the hospital linked to mold exposure.

The most recent lawsuit was filed on behalf of John Haines, 65, who died in October at Shadyside Hospital, which is part of the medical center’s hospital network. The case was filed in Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas, indicates that Haines died of a rhizopus-positive pneumonia infection. According to a report by CNN, Haines received a letter of notification from the hospital acknowledging that he had the fungal infection on the day he died.

Before Haines, at least five other deaths at two other UPMC facilities, including UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Montefiore, were blamed on mold exposure, with at least two of the deaths linked to the same type of fungal infection. An independent researcher notified the medical center of the connection to mold exposure in a report in May 2016.

The report came to light in two wrongful death lawsuits filed against the hospitals last month. It was reportedly commissioned by the hospital after questioning three of the patient deaths.

According to the report, the deaths occurred over a span of time dating back to October 2014, and investigators linked the infections back to mold found all over the Paris Healthcare Linen Facility, which cleans and supplies the hospital’s linens. Wet sheets found in one of the hospitals were determined to be covered in heavy fungal growth.

In May 2016, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a separate report published in its Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, which found that four of the patients who died had all undergone solid organ transplantation and had been receiving immunosuppressive medications.

In September 2015, UPMC temporarily halted transplants at all of its hospitals after mold was discovered. According to the CDC, the Pennsylvania Department of Health reported a cluster of three infections that afflicted solid organ transplant recipients over the course of a year at UPMC Presbyterian. There was a fourth probable case as well.

According to the CDC, the three confirmed cases were all treated in the same room, which was a negative pressure room.

“Frequent use of this door by personnel and visitors might have disturbed airflow, allowing dust and mold spores, if present, to enter the room,” the CDC noted. “None of the patients had a clinical indication requiring negative-pressure isolation.”

The hospital has already settled two previous wrongful death claims over the mold infections for $1.35 million each.

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