• Deadly mold on linens may have contributed to UPMC patient's death, attorney says

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    Attorneys for the family of a transplant patient who died during a mold outbreak at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center said tainted linens might have played a part.
     
    Daniel Krieg, 56, died last July at UPMC Montefiore in Oakland after contracting a fungal infection. Krieg was the fifth known UPMC patient with a fungal infection to die since 2014. His family filed a lawsuit in October against UPMC.
     
    An investigation by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention never pinpointed the exact source of the mold, but attorneys for Krieg's family said they've uncovered new evidence that points to a linen company as the source of the mold. 
     
    An attorney for Krieg’s family filed an amended complaint on Thursday, alleging that there was mold on the sheets that the hospital was using. All UPMC hospitals, except Magee Women’s Hospital, use the same linen company, which is based in DuBois, Pennsylvania.
     
    The CDC launched an investigation after several transplant patients contracted fungal infections at UPMC Presbyterian and died. The CDC blamed it on negative pressure rooms and said the ventilation system was the likely culprit. 
     
    However, attorneys for Krieg's family amended their lawsuit on Thursday to include the new evidence about the linens. 
     
    Officials with UPMC said they are now using specially treated linens for transplant patients. The hospital system issued the following statement: 
     
    "We continue to be transparent with federal and state health regulators, and we shared all our findings with them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health were unable to determine a definitive source for the fungal infections."
     
    UPMC has already settled other lawsuits in connection with the mold outbreak. The family of an Ohio transplant patient who died during a mold outbreak at UPMC settled its lawsuit with the hospital network in September for $1.35 million. Shelby Slagle, 27, of Groveport, Ohio, died in June 2015 after undergoing a heart transplant.
     
    The family of another patient, Tracy Fischer, 47, of Erie, settled its lawsuit for $1.35 million in last May. Fischer died in October 2014.
     
    The CDC said a specially ventilated room in the hospital's cardiothoracic intensive care unit might have been the source of the mold.
     
    The mold outbreak forced UPMC to suspend its transplant program for six days in September 2015.
     
    Tami Minnier, Chief Quality Officer for UPMC, issued the following statement:
     
    "UPMC cannot comment on these allegations; however, we continue to work closely with health officials to ensure the safest possible environment for patient care. 
     
    We continue to be transparent with federal and state health regulators and we shared all our findings with them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Pennsylvania Department of Health were unable to determine a definitive source for the fungal infections. Despite the lack of a definitive source, UPMC still went above and beyond state and federal recommendations in order to implement changes to protect our patients.  One of the many changes includes the provision of specially treated bioburden-reduced linens to our highest risk transplant patients. In addition, UPMC has shared our evidence-based findings and actions with our peer health institutions to encourage them to examine their protocols. 
     
    It is important to remember that the mold that caused these infections is common in all environments and does not cause illness in anyone except for those with the most severely compromised immune systems. UPMC treats the sickest of the sick amongst the transplant population, including patients in need of a transplant that other medical centers won't perform. In transplant patients with suppressed immune systems these fungal infections are infrequent, but do occur at most major transplant centers without any discernable source. "
     
     
    Stay with Channel 11 News and WPXI.com for continuing coverage. 
     
     
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