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Lawsuit Follows a Report on Lack of Legionella Reporting

The first wrongful death lawsuit sprouting from the 2011-12 Legionella outbreak at the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs hospital was filed Friday — a day after a VA Office of Inspector General's report indicated more than a third of the nation’s VA Hospitals did not report cases, assess patient risk or evaluate treatment of Legionnaires' disease.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA-18) said he is surprised Pittsburgh VA wasn’t the only location where staffers weren’t properly communicating about Legionella.

“If it was just Pittsburgh, then you look to the leadership in Pittsburgh," Murphy said. "When it’s system-wide, you look to the leadership system-wide."

At the Pittsburgh VA Healthcare System, 21 veterans were infected by Legionella, and five died. Murphy said there are two things the VA can do to prevent an outbreak from occurring again: first, eliminate bonuses in the hospital system and second, make the VA accountable for reporting Legionella. 

“In other words, as soon as the VA picks up on these cases they have to report to the state and also report it to the VA itself,” Murphy said. 

Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA) and Representatives Mike Doyle (D-PA-14) and Murphy have proposed legislation that would mandate the VA to do that.

“This is important because, as we say, what you don’t measure you can’t manage, and they have to be looking for these things, as soon as they see them they need to be doing some instantaneous reporting throughout the system,” Murphy said.

Murphy said he hopes the report and the deaths following the Legionella outbreak has motivated the VA system to make changes.

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