Agencies Reject Report Linking Linens, Disease

Posted January 27, 2017 at 6:53 pm

A report circulated to media outlets by a plaintiffs’ lawyer offered scant evidence to implicate hospital linens as a source of mold that infected five patients who were already critically ill and later died in 2015 and 2016. In follow-up statements on Jan. 28, state and federal health officials reaffirmed earlier findings that didn’t implicate linens in the deaths. They added that no further investigation is planned. 

The report by two healthcare environmental specialists commissioned by the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) was issued on May 2, 2016. However, it was distributed to media outlets on Jan. 24 with a cover letter from attorney Branden Lupetin who is suing UPMC and Paris Cos., DuBois, PA, on charges of causing the fatal infections in two cases.  

The report by Andrew Streifel, a hospital environmental specialist; and Michael Buck, a safety and health compliance specialist, followed investigations by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (PaDOH). The agency investigations identified no clear source for the molds that led to infections known as “mucormycosis.” Click here for details.

Both agencies reaffirmed those findings in a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette article published on Jan. 28. "The facts of this investigation don't support the conclusion that infection resulted from exposure to linens," the article quoted an e-mailed statement from the PaDOH. The CDC offered a similar response to the report, stating that, "'Linens were evaluated like many other factors but were not associated' with the outbreak," the article said, quoting CDC spokesman Thomas Skinner. Click here for details

The Streifel/Buck report measured hard surfaces and items such as walls and carts, but practically no linens. One example was a pair of pants and a shirt worn by the investigator that ended up with yeast and harmful Rhizopus sp spores. Another measure showed one wet flat sheet that was infected with Rhizopus sp.

Lupetin represents the estates of two deceased patients, Daniel Krieg and Che Duvall. Paris President David Stern issued a statement on Jan. 27 that avoided discussing details of the case that's now in litigation. But he noted his company’s extensive record of compliance with safety standards for patient linens. “We’ve been in business for nearly a century, and we have a long history of meeting or exceeding accreditation standards and regulatory guidelines for our industry, which demonstrates our ongoing commitment to quality and safety. In addition, we collaborate with our customers on a continual basis to improve our processes.”

In addition, TRSA issued the following statement on the allegations against Paris Cos.

“TRSA is fully aware of the recent media reports regarding a possible link between healthcare linens processed by Paris Cos. and the death of immune-compromised University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) patients. The TRSA Hygienically Clean Healthcare Advisory Board, Healthcare Committee, and Hygienically Clean Users Groups are aware of the report and litigation, and will be reviewing all Hygienically Clean Healthcare policies and procedures, including testing and inspection.

TRSA’s Hygienically Clean Healthcare standards for processing healthcare linens and garments require inspection to verify laundries’ commitment to best management practices (BMPs) plus microbial testing to quantify hygiene of clean textiles produced. Certification confirms a laundry’s dedication to compliance and BMPs as described in its quality assurance documentation (QA).

Hygienically Clean Healthcare requires initial and ongoing quarterly testing of microbial content including mold and fungus levels, as well as a supplemental second inspection during a facility’s three-year certification period.

The study referenced by plaintiffs’ attorneys does not provide any measurement of clean linen contamination at the Paris facility or the hospital, nor does it directly link any linen to patients.”

Click here for additional details from local news media on the issue.