Senator Pushed for Answers Following Outbreak in Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh, PA — Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) outlined new legislation that would require a VA Health System (VAHS) to report an incident of Legionnaires’ Disease and the detection of Legionella within 24 hours and specify the facility where it occurred. Senator Casey pushed for answers after an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease at the VA Pittsburgh Health System revealed that when positive Legionella tests were first discovered, they were not reported.
“During this outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease, appropriate entities were not adequately informed. Changes are needed to ensure there is better notification in the future and that steps are being taken to ensure our veterans have access to high quality health care,” said Senator Casey. “I am introducing legislation to help ensure an outbreak like this never goes unreported again.”
In November, an outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease was confirmed at the VA Pittsburgh Health System as a result of water containing Legionella. When the outbreak became public knowledge, Senator Casey called on the VA to explain why the outbreak occurred and to outline steps to ensure veterans have safe water. At Senator Casey’s request, the VA Inspector General is currently investigating and preparing a report on the outbreak.
Senator Casey’s legislation, which is still in draft form, would require the VA Health System to immediately report that incident and the specific facility where it occurred to:
- The Centers for Disease Control;
- The State and County Health Department;
- The Veterans Administration in Washington, DC
- Any provider affiliated with each case
- All employees at the effected VA Health System
Upon confirming an instance of Legionella in the water system, the VA will be required to provide a report to the same entities as listed above identifying the location of the outbreak, patients who might be impacted, and outlining a plan to eradicate Legionella from the site.
Currently, there are no federally mandated reporting guidelines that require the Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) to disclose information surrounding an outbreak such as the recent Legionnaires Disease outbreak. However, according to the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Handbook, the VHA believes they have a responsibility to disclose “harmful or potentially-harmful” events to their patients. While the VHA believes they have an “obligation” to disclose these harmful events to patients or the patient’s personal representative, disclosing health information must also be done in accordance with the Privacy Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPPA).