Casey Calls for Action from VA to Prevent Future Legionnaires’ Outbreaks

Pittsburgh Cases Could Have Been Prevented If Water Purification-System Was Properly Monitored

Washington DC- Today, U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) demanded action from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after five Pittsburgh veterans were sickened with Legionnaires’ disease due to the poor quality of the hospital’s water supply.

In a letter to Eric K. Shinseki, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Casey noted that the outbreak could have been prevented if the hospital’s water system was properly monitored.

Senator Casey wrote, “Pennsylvania is home to a network of eight VA medical centers and additional community based out-patient clinics that service approximately 270,000 veterans annually.  It is our obligation to ensure that these veterans receive the highest standards of care possible.  It is a true disservice that veterans may come to the VA seeking help and potentially contract an additional medical condition, in a manner that is proven to be preventable.”

On November 16th an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease began at the Veterans Administration Pittsburgh Healthcare System University Drive Campus in Oakland. It has been revealed that the outbreak was caused by the hospital’s failure to properly monitor water purity.

In Casey’s letter, he demands answers on what is being done to ensure water systems in Oakland and across the state and country are being properly monitored.

The full text of Casey’s letter is below:

Dear Secretary Shinseki:

I am writing to express my concern with the recent outbreak of Legionnaires’ Disease at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.  It is my understanding that these cases could have been prevented had the VA been appropriately monitoring its water purification system. 

Pennsylvania is home to a network of eight VA medical centers and additional community based out-patient clinics that service approximately 270,000 veterans annually.  It is our obligation to ensure that these veterans receive the highest standards of care possible.  It is a true disservice that veterans may come to the VA seeking help and potentially contract an additional medical condition, in a manner that is proven to be preventable.

I understand that changes have been proposed to address these issues at the VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. I am writing to ask if there are any standard protocols in place to guarantee that these water systems are appropriately monitored throughout the VA system and to understand what steps the Department of Veterans Affairs can take to ensure that this never happens again.

Thank you for your attention to this issue.

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