Hospital renovations cited in lawsuit

By: February 5th, 2009 Email This Post Print This Post

For those Infection Preventionists who have stopped by our blog lately, this story may be of interest to you.

This morning, the Associated Press reported that the families of three pediatric cancer patients filed a lawsuit against St. Joseph’s Hospital Inc. in Tampa, FL. The lawsuit alleges that the children – ages 2, 5, and 9 – died after contracting fugal infections because they were exposed to pathogenic fungi after the hospital failed to properly seal off an area during renovation.

Each of the children were battling lymphoblastic leukemia. According to the article, the families believe that the airborne fungi infiltrated the patients’ rooms during their stay at St. Joseph’s, which is part of BayCare Health System, a network of not-for-profit hospitals in the Tampa Bay area.

The hospital has released a statement, saying it took appropriate measures, including barriers around construction areas,  filtering the air, and monitoring ventilation systems.

“Cancer kills more children than any other disease,” the hospital said in the statement.  “Sometimes, despite all the measures we have in place, all the medical expertise we provide, and all the personal care we deliver, patients do not survive.”

However, the lawsuit points to tests that confirmed the presence of pathogenic fungi in each case. It also notes that patient rooms were located directly above the construction area, where air conditioning systems could have exposed the children to the fungi.

In the article, Attorney Steven Yerrid, who is representing the families, said that the infections forced the children into “yet another battle.”

“And this one was unnecessary, and could and should have been prevented,” he said.

The frightening part about this story is that these types of construction and renovation projects take place in hospitals all over the country. Even the smallest renovations, such as replacing a ceiling tile, will  require extensive involvement from infection control in order to prevent an this kind of incident.

Go to the Tools section for a free downloadable  Sample Weekly Checklist During Construction.

Also, this month’s audio, “Infection Control During Construction and Renovation,” offers advice and guidance for hospitals preparing for even the smallest renovations. Below is a free preview with speaker Tom Huser, MS, CHSP, a safety coordinator with Clarian Health in Indianapolis.

Get the Flash Player to see the wordTube Media Player.


By Richard Lacus on February 16th, 2009 at 11:18 am

If replacing a ceiling tile will require extensive involvement from I C. What Infection control measures should be taken when using a toilet plunger to unplug a toilet in a health care. OSH;S interpitations state to avoid contact with possably infectious agents. Health care is the key identifier. What should the standard be?

By David LaHoda on February 20th, 2009 at 1:49 pm

The bloodborne pathogens standard can apply to many job types both in healthcare and outside of healthcare, according to Enforcement Procedures for the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens. The document identifies housekeeping and maintenance staff job types as possible candidates for coverage under the bloodborne pathogens standard.

OSHA reminds that it is the employer’s responsibility to determine what job classifications have the potential for occupational exposure.

To return to your original question, I would expect that a job requiring plunging out toilets in a healthcare facility puts workers at risk for exposure to blood and OPIM, and I would include these workers in the exposure identification list in the exposure control plan.


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