Multiple Deaths at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center possibly related to mold growth or ventilation.

As reported at CNN.Com, there are some strange and tragic things going on at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center[“UPMC”]. Since October, 2014, there have been five deaths that were initially attributed to heavy mold growth on linens at UPMC hospitals. The problems seems particularly prevalent in the transplant unit – where five transplant recipients died due to mold infections. UPMC commissioned a report on the mold issue in September, 2015 after the first three deaths. The resulting investigation tested areas at the hospital and at Paris Healthcare Linen[“Paris”] – the company that provides linens to the hospital. The test results showed mold at the hospital and in nearly every single location tested at the Paris facility. The examiners found heavy fungal growth of Mucor and rhizopus on linens delivered to one of the Medical Center facilities. At the Paris facility, a heavy buildup of mold was discovered near a vent that provided air to dry linens destined for UPMC facilities. Healthcare linen providers are obligated to comply with certain standards set forth by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council. The examiner who conducted the investigation did not feel Paris was meeting those standards. Despite the report, April Hutcheson of the Pennsylvania Department of Health commented that “The facts of this investigation don’t support the conclusion that the infections resulted from exposure to linens.”

In September of 2015, UPMC requested The Centers for Disease Control[“CDC”] to investigate the deaths. The CDC felt the deaths were NOT related to the linens but to ventilation issues that allowed dust and mold to enter patient rooms.

Rhizopus and Mucor mold are quite common and typically do not bother most healthy people. But they can present significant problems for immune-suppressed patients, including transplant patients or patients receiving chemotherapy.

Two of the transplant patients who died had rhizopus positive infections that required multiple sections of their lungs removed prior to their death. Despite the investigations, UPMC continues to utilize Paris to provide linens. Paris CEO Dave Stern noted the “Paris Companies consistently meets or exceeds accreditation standards and regulatory guidelines for laundering linens, which demonstrates our ongoing commitment to quality and safety. We continue to cooperate with all regulatory agencies involved in the oversight of linen processing.”.