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State orders Flint hospital to take steps to reduce Legionnaires' disease risk

McLaren Hospital in Flint.
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio
McLaren Hospital in Flint.

State health department officials are ordering McLaren Hospital in Flint to comply with new recommendations stemming from a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak. 

A majority of the people who got sick and died during the Legionnaires' outbreak from 2014 to 2015 were patients at McLaren.

As part of its order, the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services cites a document from a contractor hired by McLaren to test the hospital’s internal water system.

MDHHS spokeswoman Angela Minicuci says the document indicates that the internal water system, and not the city’s troubled municipal system, was the source of the Legionella bacteria.

“In December of 2014, there was a letter issued to McLaren Flint by this contractor that did indicate … the problem with Legionella was internal to the hospital’s water system … and not with the city of Flint water supply,” says Minicuci.

MDHHS is ordering McLaren Flint to do the following:

  • McLaren Flint will immediately implement all CDC recommendations contained in the CDC report initially released on October 7, 2016, and updated November 3, 2016;
  • McLaren Flint must immediately amend its Water Management Plan to reflect the CDC recommendations and update it at a reasonable interval to reflect new or changing recommendations;
  • A monitor will be appointed by the Department, at McLaren Flint’s expense, to oversee compliance with the Water Management Plan and this order;
  • MDHHS, with support from CDC, will conduct independent testing in parallel with McLaren Flint environmental sampling on an enhanced surveillance schedule;
  • McLaren Flint Hospital must provide MDHHS a comprehensive description of the testing plan and all corresponding test results to ensure that the monitoring and sampling recommendations have been implemented;
  • McLaren Flint Hospital will preserve isolates from all positive Legionella results from environmental testing in accordance with MDHHS, GCHD and CDC recommendations; and,
  • McLaren Flint Hospital must cooperate with all requests for information from the Department related to Legionella, its water system, its infection control protocols, its water management plan, and all requests for information related to the Legionella outbreaks at that facility in 2014, 2015, and 2016.

In a written statement, MDHHS Director Nick Lyon said:

"While we have attempted to work with McLaren Flint to address the ongoing health risk of healthcare-associated Legionella at its facility, we are issuing this Order today as a result of McLaren Flint’s insufficient response to our requests, as well as to request additional information regarding how they implemented the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations made in October and November 2016," said ... Lyon.

Until recently, a court order prevented the state health department from talking directly to the hospital. The order was sought by the special counsel investigating potential criminal charges in the Flint water crisis.

McLaren insists it's committment to it's patients is "unwavering" and accuses the state health department  of refusing to hold itself and others accountable for the Legionnaires Disease outbreak.  

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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