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Attorneys: 6th Patient Died Due To UPMC Mold Outbreak

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) - A new lawsuit has been filed against UPMC, which claims that another patient has died as a result of the recent mold outbreak.

The new allegations involve a third UPMC hospital.

Today, attorneys representing the estate of the deceased patient announced they filed a wrongful death action.

The allegations are that another patient died from the same fungal infection that led to the deaths of five other patients.

It is also important to know that these attorneys are representing the estates of two other patients who died.

It was a little over two weeks ago when investigators said Paris Companies - a linen-cleaning company - was to blame for the mold outbreak at UPMC hospitals.

Paris Companies is located in DuBois.

Investigators reported finding the rhizopus fungus at its facility in DuBois and also in a bin of clean linens that were delivered to UPMC Montefiore.

This new lawsuit alleges the fungus was found at UPMC Shadyside.

"This infection is merciless. This infection is an invasive infection. It destroy organs, destroys them, very hard to treat," Jerry Meyers, an attorney representing the estate of John Haines, said.

"When they identified at Montefiore and they identified at Presbyterian Hospital a risk and a means of reducing that risk, you expect those methods to be employed in all hospitals where patients of similar ilk are located," Meyers added.

"We are continuing with the claims that this was a combined cause from both the actions or inactions of UPMC, but also very much so this Paris linen company that supplied contaminated linens to all of UPMC's hospitals for some time," attorney Brendan Lupetin said.

UPMC has previously said the mold, "does not cause illness in anyone except for those with the most severely compromised immune systems."

The attorneys say this newest patient was a person with a suppressed immune system.

UPMC issued a statement in response that reads:

"Ensuring the safest possible environment for patient care is of utmost importance to UPMC. It is critically important to understand that rhizopus is present in all environments and does not cause illness in anyone except for those with the most severely compromised immune systems. Despite our best protocols, it can still be carried into the hospital on the shoes or clothes of visitors.

"All of our hospitals were included in our review following the mucormycosis case that we brought to the attention of health authorities in 2015. We have conducted comprehensive risk assessments of all UPMC locations and implemented appropriate evidence-based protocols.

"Mr. Haines was very sick when he was admitted to UPMC Shadyside Hospital in September. When he arrived, he was positive for pseudomonas, a very opportunistic and deadly bacteria, and we then diagnosed him with leukemia as well. He had almost no white blood cells, so his immune system was not functioning. We immediately started him on an antifungal treatment and he was never housed in a negative pressure room. His illness progressed though and, despite our best efforts, we did find a colony of rhizopus in his lung fluid immediately prior to his passing. His family told us that Mr. Haines was an avid gardener. We explained that while it was possible he contracted his fungal infection prior to his hospitalization, we decided, however, to classify it as hospital-acquired per CDC guidelines even though clinically there can be no certainty.

"We have tested hospital linens at UPMC Shadyside and found no rhizopus.

"We are saddened by his death. Unfortunately rhizopus-related infections happen at major medical centers where the sickest of the sick are treated, despite the best possible care. The CDC would be appropriate to confirm the national rate of rhizopus-related infections that would be expected at hospitals and we encourage you to contact them."

Paris Companies also issued a statement in response that reads:

"Paris Companies consistently meets or exceeds accreditation standards and regulatory guidelines for laundering linens, which demonstrates our ongoing commitment to quality and safety. We continue to cooperate with all regulatory agencies involved in the oversight of linen processing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Pennsylvania Department of Health both reviewed the facts in this case. Neither agency identified linens as the source of the problem."

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