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Surprise inspection finds improper care of linens at UPMC Shadyside

Ben Schmitt
| Thursday, April 6, 2017, 12:15 p.m.
UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland
Guy Wathen | Trib Total Media
UPMC Presbyterian in Oakland

An unannounced state inspection of UPMC Shadyside hospital revealed improper storage of clean and soiled linens along with ventilation problems.

The findings by the Pennsylvania Department of Health come as UPMC and its linen supplier Paris Companies are embroiled in several wrongful death lawsuits stemming from fungal infections in immune-suppressed transplant and cancer patients.

The Feb. 17 inspection results, posted recently online, indicated that a complaint led to the investigation and subsequent discussions about corrective measures.

Investigators determined “that neither the clean or soiled linens were being stored according to standards…”

UPMC said it is open to the feedback from the state.

“Patient safety is our top priority and we always strive to be in compliance with state and federal regulations,” UPMC spokeswoman Allison Hydzik said in an emailed statement. “We welcome health officials into our facilities and appreciate their guidance. When issues are found, we move quickly to make corrections, as we have in this case.”

UPMC and state officials met Feb. 28 to discuss plans for construction and renovations to ensure proper delivery and storage of the linens, according to the report.

“The plans involve a significant change to the physical locations of clean and soiled linens in order to ensure compliance with regulatory requirements,” the report stated. “It is anticipated that the construction/renovation will be completed by Sept. 1, 2017, due to the time needed for planning, approvals by agencies including the Pennsylvania Department of Health and the City of Pittsburgh, and the construction/renovation itself.”

The report also pointed out that soiled and clean linens were inappropriately stored in the basement within close proximity to each other. Soiled linens are supposed to be segregated from clean linen at all times to avoid contamination, according to the report.

“During a tour of the facility's soiled linen bulk storage area on Feb. 16, 2017, at approximately 11 a.m., soiled linens were observed packed in cloth bags stacked in red plastic containers located in a room with the door opened adjacent to the hallways where the clean linens containers were stored,” the report stated.

The state has asked UPMC to review and improve the way it stores linens with regard to temperature and ventilation.

At least six people have died after contracting a fungal infection inside a UPMC facility since 2014. Five families have taken legal action in connection with the mold incidents. Among them, two cases have settled for $1.35 million apiece.

A source of the fungal infections has not been determined, although a previous Centers for Disease Control and Prevention source pointed to a ventilation system in the UPMC Presbyterian cases.

In January, an internal UPMC report surfaced indicating heavy mold growth was found in linens delivered by Paris to UPMC Montefiore. UPMC hired Andrew Streifel, a hospital environment specialist with the University of Minnesota's department of environmental health and safety, to investigate Paris Healthcare Linen Services.

As part of the investigation, Streifel inspected a linen cart delivered by Paris to UPMC Montefiore on Feb. 2, 2016. Samples showed “heavy fungal growth” of rhizopus in the “wet sheets collected from the UPMC laundry carts,” he wrote.

After the report came to light, Paris was added as a defendant to several lawsuits filed by family members of the afflicted against UPMC.

“Given everything that has transpired over the past several years, we are shocked and saddened to learn of these ongoing deficiencies with the laundry and linens at UPMC,” said Pittsburgh attorney Brendan Lupetin, who represents several of the families. “This mess needs to be cleaned up for the patients' sake.”

Paris has maintained that its products are safe.

“As leaders in our industry, Paris provides safe, hygienically clean linens to more than 100 hospitals and healthcare facilities in five states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, New York and West Virginia,” its CEO Dave Stern said in a statement.

Ben Schmitt is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7991 or

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