Union claims 'cover-up' in Legionnaires' outbreak at Oakland VA hospital

"ItisverytroublingtousthatthistypeofoutbreakwouldoccuratafacilitythatusedtobealeaderinLegionnairesresearch,"AFGEDistrict3NationalVicePresidentKeithHillsaidinapressrelease."TheresearchersresponsibleforidentifyingtheconnectionbetweenthediseaseandthewatersystemswereforcedoutoftheVA,andtheirresearchdestroyed,whenVISN4DirectorMichaelMorelandwastheheadofthefacility.Nowthisissueresurfaceswhilehe'stheregionaldirector.Hemostcertainlyshouldbeheldresponsibleforthemisstepsandcover-upthatareoccurring."
TheresearchersMr.HillreferstoareJanetStoutandVictorYuwhoareconsideredLegionnaires'experts.TheybothworkedfordecadesatthePittsburghVA,butDr.Yuwasforcedoutin2006andDr.Stoutresignedin2007afteradisputewithmanagement.
TheVAdidnotimmediatelyrespondtotheAFGE'sallegations.
Inaphoneinterviewtoday,Mr.Hillsaidhebasedhisallegationsofa"cover-up"onstorieshereadinthePittsburghPost-GazetteinwhichthefamiliesoftwomenwhodiedaftercontractingLegionnaires'saidthePittsburghVAtoldthemthemenprobablygotthediseasefromtheirhomewatersupplies,notattheVA.
"IknowbywhatIreadandwhatIsee,also,"Mr.Hillsaid."Andfrommyunderstanding,someofthesefamilieswereledtobelievetheycontractedthediseasewhentheywentonatriptotheirhomes,whenitalllikelihoodtheygotitatthe(PittsburghVA)facility.Idon'tknowwhatelsetocallitbutacover-up."
HesaidtheunionisstillwaitingtohearifthereisconfirmationthatfiveorsixemployeesintheVA'sUniversityDrivehospitalinOaklandalsocontractedLegionnaires'.
Thoseemployeescontractedpneumoniainthelastfourtosixweeks,Mr.Hillsaid,buttheystilldon'tknowifitwasfromLegionnaires',whichsometimesmistakenforpneumonia.
TheLegionnairesoutbreakwasfirstrevealedbythePittsburghVA'sUniversityDrivehospitalonNov.16,whenitsaidfourpatientshadcontractedthediseasefromthehospital'swatersystem.
Sixdayslater,theVAsaidafifthpersonhadcontractedthediseasefromthehospital.Adaylater,thatman,WilliamE.Nicklas,87,ofHampton,died.
TwootherfamilieshavetoldthePost-Gazettethatmenintheirfamilies--JohnMcChesney,63,ofColumbus,Pa.,andJohnCiarolla,83,ofNorthVersailles--alsodiedaftercontractingLegionnaires.
ItisnotclearyetifthosetwomencontractedtheillnessattheUniversityDrivehospital,thoughbothofthemhadlengthystaystherebeforecontractingthedisease.
Oneofthosetwomen--Mr.Ciarolla--alsowasstayingatthePittsburghVA'sH.J.Heinznursinghome,nearAspinwall.
TheVAsaysithashadeightotherpatientssinceJanuary,2011,whohadLegionnairesthattheycontractedoutsidethehospitalButthereare16moreinwhichpatientshadLegionnaires',buttheVAcan'tsaywhethertheycontracteditinsidethehospitaloroutside.
"ItistimeforVAleadershiptobeheldresponsibleforthelackofoversightandinabilitytoactquicklywhenfirstnotifiedofthissituation,"AFGENationalVACouncilPresidentAlmaLeesaidinthepressrelease."UltimatelythebuckstopswithVASecretaryEricShinseki.Thelackofattentionbeingpaidtoissuesaffectingpatientcarehasourveteranspayingtheprice.It'stimeforSecretaryShinsekitostepupandmakeseriousstridestowardgettingtothebottomofwhat'shappeninginthePittsburghVAmedicalsystem."


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