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Investigators: Laundry Company Source Of UPMC Hospital Mold Outbreak

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Investigators are saying that a linen-cleaning company is to blame for the mold outbreak at UPMC hospitals.

For about a year and a half, investigators have been trying to pinpoint the source of that mold outbreak, and a just-released internal report that attorneys now have their hands on may have some answers.

After months of testing and investigations, it was a nationally recognized expert on mold who came to a disturbing conclusion about the outbreak that infected five patients and led to their deaths.

"And lo and behold, when they go and investigate where the laundry is actually being laundered, it turns out that the facility is covered in the exact type of fungus that led to infections that killed these patients," attorney Brendan Lupetin said.

Paris Companies, located in DuBois, supplies 22 UPMC facilities and 160 facilities in other states. A report, completed in May but just filed in court, says the rhizopus fungus was found there, and in a bin of clean linens delivered to UPMC Montefiore.

KDKA talked to attorneys Jerry Meyers and Brendan Lupetin, who represent the estates of 2 of the patients who died.

"You go to a hospital, the one thing you can expect is to have clean sheets, not dirty sheets!" said Meyers. "Dirty sheets? What a reason for a person to die."

"It turns out the facility (Paris Companies) was covered in the exact same type of fungus that led to infections that killed these patients," added Lupetin.

Lupetin says the impact of these findings could be far-reaching.

"Multi-state, all through western Pennsylvania, throughout the UPMC Health System," he said. "It's daunting to think how big this really is."

In a statement, UPMC said it could not comment on the allegations, saying in part:

"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."

They added, "It is important to remember that the hold 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 went on to say that it did make addition changes, including using mold-resistant sheets for the most at-risk patients. The attorneys now want the CDC and the Health Department to come back and do more investigations of their own.

KDKA did reach out to Paris Companies, but they would not comment.

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