Legionella found during water tests at VA hospital in Loma Linda

Source: Orange County Register (CA), June 14, 2018
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Legionella bacteria was discovered Wednesday, June 13 at the Jerry L. Pettis Memorial VA Medical Center in Loma Linda, a facility at the center of a federal whistleblower complaint from a group of worried physicians and nurses.
Hospital officials learned of the Legionella through quarterly water safety testing, according to Wade J. Habshey, spokesman for the Pettis Medical Center.
“This does not mean there is a Legionella outbreak,” he said in a statement. “The facility has a zero-tolerance policy for Legionella.”
Mitigation efforts are underway and out-of-service signs have been placed in front of affected rooms and drinking fountains as a safety precaution.
“Service chiefs are notifying staff members as appropriate” regarding the remediation, Habshey said.
Information was not immediately available regarding how long it will take to remove the Legionella or whether patients have been transferred to other rooms during mitigation efforts.
Legionella bacteria is a cause of Legionnaires’ disease, a severe form of pneumonia that can be contracted by inhaling microscopic water droplets in mist or vapor. The Legionella bacteria thrive in fresh water, but can multiply in indoor water systems such as hot tubs and air conditioners, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Legionella is not spread through person-to-person contact. Symptoms can include diarrhea, high fever, cough, chest pain and shortness of breath. Those at higher risk for infection are people 50 or older and those who have smoked or currently smoke, have chronic lung disease or a weakened immune system. Left untreated, Legionnaires’ can be fatal.
In February, several doctors and nurses filed a complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel alleging the hospital’s administration has not notified the medical staff of the Legionella first discovered in 2017, has failed to correct the problem and has denied the bacteria exists at the facility.
“There are many employees and patients who could have been exposed from August/September to November from the sporadic growth of Legionella in the water system,” the complaint says.
Also in February, the VA solicited bids for Legionella mitigation for the entire Loma Linda health care system, which includes the Pettis Medical Center and clinics in Blythe, Corona, Palm Desert, Rancho Cucamonga, Murrieta and Victorville.
The health care system has more than 2,400 employees and 1,300 volunteers who serve more than 76,000 veterans. The Pettis Medical Center has 162 acute-care beds and a 108-bed community living center.
The yearlong Legionella remediation project is estimated to cost as much as $1 million, according to an online bid notice.

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