VA 'stakeholders' invited to session on Legionnaires' disease prevention efforts
Pittsburgh VA officials have asked congressional aides and veterans groups to an invitation-only “open house” event next week to show what's being done to prevent patients from contracting potentially deadly Legionnaires' disease.
VA leaders will conduct a tour, discuss Legionnaires' prevention efforts and “correct misinformation being reported by the media,” according to an invitation sent to elected officials that the Tribune-Review obtained.
David Cowgill, chief spokesman for the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System, declined to elaborate Wednesday on the claim about media misinformation or release a list of the invitees. He said an afternoon gathering for reporters would follow the event at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the VA campus in O'Hara.
“We are hosting an informational session for our stakeholders, and this includes congressional offices, to discuss specific agenda items in regards to Legionella control and our continued efforts to create the safest health care environment possible for our nation's heroes to heal,” Cowgill wrote in an email. “This session is one of several that we have hosted to help keep our stakeholders informed.”
The offices of Reps. Mike Doyle, D-Forest Hills; Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair; and Keith Rothfus, R-Sewickley, and Sens. Pat Toomey, R-Allentown, and Bob Casey Jr., D-Scranton, confirmed they will send representatives.
At least five patients died among the 21 veterans who the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined definitely or probably contracted Legionnaires' disease at the VA's University Drive hospital in Oakland and H.J. Heinz campus in O'Hara in 2011 and 2012. The CDC found water in the Pittsburgh VA had elevated levels of Legionella, the common bacteria that can cause the severe form of pneumonia when inhaled as mist from shower heads or other fixtures.
A Trib investigation this month found more veterans could have fallen ill from contamination at the VA Oakland hospital without having been documented as Legionnaires' patients. Elevated levels of Legionella bacteria were found in testing at least seven times at the hospital from 2007 to 2011, according to records the Trib obtained under a Freedom of Information Act request.
It wasn't until November 2012 that Pittsburgh VA officials publicly announced the outbreak and mandated a Legionnaires' test for pneumonia patients.
VA officials have for months declined requests for interviews and provided limited information for publication, ignoring phone calls that might require them to respond to questions about Legionella. Cowgill typically responds to Trib questions by email and ignores some questions.
Ron Conley, director of veterans affairs for Allegheny County, said the VA in the past “tried to lessen the bad publicity they've had by having meetings like this.” He praised the VA Pittsburgh's overall track record for health care but expressed concern about the Legionnaires' outbreak.
“These incidents tarnish their image. I'd like to see that get fixed,” he said.
Adam Smeltz is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5676 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Pittsburgh adjusting to new bicycle lane, ‘stop boxes’
- Brashear High ‘little libraries’ program rolls out
- Icy roads, cold causing school delays, wrecks in Western Pa.
- Environmental teachers glean new ideas from networking
- Second African penguin chick hatches at National Aviary
- The Exchange offers reward for information that leads to the arrest of person who shot Ross clerk
- Newsmaker: Cindy Marzock
- Pittsburgh fraud case, Uganda-based counterfeiting racket linked
- Humane Society draws attention to longest-tenured critters at sleepover
- Fall from Hazelwood roof kills man
- German firm Nextbike to provide first 500 bikes for Pittsburgh sharing program