House subcommittee to take testimony on Legionnaire's outbreak

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A House subcommittee looking into the Legionnaires' disease outbreak at the Veterans' Affairs hospital in Oakland that has killed at least one veteran, will hear during a hearing Tuesday from two former researchers who believe the hospital failed to properly maintain its water disinfection system, leading to the outbreak.

Victor Yu and Janet Stout, the Pittsburgh-based Legionnaires researchers who both used to work at the Pittsburgh VA hospital, will be on the second of two panels of experts who will make statements and take questions from the members of the House Veterans' Affairs' committee's subcommittee on oversight and investigations.

"I felt if I was invited, I should go," Dr. Stout said. "I felt the service I could give is to get answers for the veterans and their families."

Joining them on the second panel will be two water disinfection company executives who were called in by the Pittsburgh VA in the year prior to the Nov. 17 confirmation that their was an outbreak at the hospital.

Aaron Marshall, operations manager for Enrich Products, Inc., and Steve Schira, owner of Liquitech, Inc., both have said that they gave the Pittsburgh VA advice on what to do to fix the problems with the hospital's water disinfection system that was in place to control the Legionella bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease.

Also on the panel with them will be: Kathleen Dahl, president of the local union that represents the VA hospital's employees and who has expressed concerns about the risk posed to union members and how the hospital handled the outbreak; and Lauri Hicks, an epidemiologist and head of the team from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that worked with the Pittsburgh VA to analyze its Legionella problem.

The first panel the subcommittee will hear from will have three executives from the VA, but only one who works in Pittsburgh.

Robert Jesse, principal deputy under secretary for health in the VA, Gary Rosell, chief medical service program director of infectious diseases for the VA, and Mike Moreland, network director for the VA region that includes the Pittsburgh VA.

The hearing, which was requested by both U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills, and U.S. Tom Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, is expected to last about two hours and will focus solely on the outbreak at the Pittsburgh VA.

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Sean D. Hamill: shamill@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2579 or shamill@post-gazette.com


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