UPMC sued again by family of patient who died after mold infection
April 20, 2017 1:56 PM
The entrance to Posner Tower at UPMC Shadyside.
By Sean D. Hamill / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Katherine Landman had already benefited from one bone-marrow transplant from her younger brother, Paul, three years earlier when her acute myeloid leukemia came back in July 2015.
“She was doing real well until then,” her father, Lenny Boyce, said Thursday.
The 44-year-old New Castle mother of two college-age kids returned to UPMC Shadyside for a work-up and her doctors quickly decided that she needed another transplant. This time the bone marrow would come from her older brother, Louis, and preparations began for the procedure.
“But that never came about because she got this infection,” Mr. Boyce said.
The infection was a particularly deadly form of mold – rhizopus —- that had gotten into her sinuses sometime after she was admitted to Shadyside, according to the wrongful death and negligence lawsuit her husband, Steve, filed Thursday in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court against UPMC and Paris Cleaners, the company that cleans UPMC’s linens.
In August 2015, she had two surgeries to attempt to remove the infection from her sinus cavity. But the surgeries could not stop its spread and Ms. Landman died Oct. 11, 2015.
Her case is the seventh involving patients who died after contracting mold infections at UPMC hospitals between October 2014 and October 2016.
“What this case does is it sort of nails down the breadth of the outbreak,” said Brendan Lupetin, one of the Landman family’s attorneys. “This shows that at first the cases are at Presbyterian [hospital], then it’s at Montefiore [hospital] and then it’s at Shadyside.”
The lawsuit — similar to one filed by the family of another patient, John Haines, in February – alleges that what links all seven cases at the three hospitals are the linens washed at the Dubois facility of Paris Cleaners.
Paris Cleaners CEO David Stern said in an emailed statement Thursday: “The Centers for Disease Control and the Pennsylvania Department of Health have both said the facts don’t support the conclusion that these infections resulted from exposure to linens. We stand by these statements from our public agencies. Our products are safe.”
The lawsuit bases much of its negligence claims on an internal UPMC investigation that found mold — similar to what the patients contracted - at the Paris Cleaners facility Feb. 1 and Feb. 2, 2016. UPMC, however, contends the seven cases are not linked.
UPMC has pointed to a CDC investigation — conducted before UPMC’s own internal investigation of Paris Cleaners — that found no conclusive source for the mold, but targeted problems with a negative-pressure room at Presbyterian that three of the patients stayed in.
“Our hospitals are safe, and our ongoing monitoring and testing show no evidence of concerning mold infections,” UPMC said in a statement Thursday. “We and the nation’s top health regulators have found no definitive cause of the previous infections, which are known to occur on occasion at most hospitals in the US.”
After the Haines family filed its lawsuit against UPMC and Paris in February, UPMC spokeswoman Allison Hydzik referenced the case of Ms. Landman, stating: “We do not believe these two patients actually contracted rhizopus infections at Shadyside as other sources (latent colonization and pre-existing sinus fungal infection) were the most likely causes.”
The “latent colonization” was a reference to UPMC’s belief that Mr. Haines initially contracted his infection while gardening. The family and its attorneys, who also represent the Landman family, disagree with that contention.
The “pre-existing sinus fungal infection” refers to Ms. Landman’s case.
Like Mr. Haines, she was at Shadyside receiving treatment for cancer, in her case chemotherapy for acute myeloid leukemia.
She was admitted July 17, 2015, and showed the first symptoms of a sinus infection Aug. 10, 24 days later.
Asked whether UPMC still believed that Ms. Landman had a “pre-existing sinus fungal infection” when she came into the hospital, Ms. Hydzik said in an email Thursday: “We will address specific allegations in court and not in the media.”
Sean D. Hamill: email@example.com or 412-263-2579 or Twitter: @SeanDHamill.
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