PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- New legislation is being proposed in response to a Legionnaires' outbreak at the VA Healthcare System in Pittsburgh that killed five patients.
Sen. Bob Casey says new reporting requirements are needed in order to prevent future outbreaks that may threaten patients. He wants cases reported within 24 hours.
Sen. Casey says he is hopeful there aren't any problems in the future with the Legionella bacteria throughout the VA health system.
But if there is a problem, he'd like to see the system respond appropriately.
Five people died contracting Legionnaires' after they were patients in the VA Healthcare System, and 21 others were sickened at the Oakland and O'Hara hospitals between February 2011 and November 2012.
"We've got to make sure that this never happens again; or, at a minimum, to insure to take steps to substantially reduce the likelihood that it would happen again," said Sen. Casey.
The senator is working on legislation that would VA Health Systems to report Legionnaires' cases within 24 hours to the Centers for Disease Control, the state and county health department, the Veterans Administration in Washington DC, any provider affiliated with the case and all employees at the effected facility.
Sen. Casey was critical not so much of the fact that the system had an outbreak of the Legionella bacteria, but that they didn't tell anyone.
"It was a basic function of disclosure - telling when you have evidence of either the disease or bacteria in the water, telling the relevant agencies or officials, or making sure the public is aware of the problem within the community," Sen. Casey said.
The legislation is in proposal stage, but Sen. Casey plans to introduce it within the next few weeks once an investigation by the inspector general's office is completed.
So far, he says he hasn't started looking for other backers of the legislation.
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