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Flint hospital threatens legal action after state order on Legionnaires' disease

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A dispute between the state health department and a Flint hospital is escalating.

The MichiganDepartment of Health and Human Services is ordering McLaren Hospital in Flint to immediately correct conditions in its facility to reduce the risk of future exposure to Legionella at the hospital.

“The department has attempted to work with McLaren Flint to assure that all appropriate steps are being taken in a timely manner to protect the health, safety and welfare of patients, staff and visitors within the health facility,” said MDHHS Director Robert Gordon. “Prompt compliance with this order will minimize health risks for McLaren’s patients.”

State health officials have linked dozens of Legionnaires' diseasecases to McLaren dating back to 2014.  The two most recent casesoccurred earlier this year.

“Steps taken by the hospital have been insufficient to resolve Legionella issues that impair its ability to deliver an acceptable level of care for the health and safety of the public,” said LARA Director Orlene Hawks. “Our order requires the hospital to take additional measures to protect Michiganders and ensure compliance with the Public Health Code.”

The state is ordering McLarento immediately comply with water restrictions, patient notification, data requests and public health investigations.

A McLaren spokesman says the hospital is reviewing the order and is exploring possible legal action against the department.

Spokeswoman Rosemary Plorin says the department’s allegations are unfounded.

“Our hospital treats sick people, including people that come to our facility with Legionnaires’ disease contracted from community sources,” says Plorin. “Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, including a 100% increase in Legionnaires' disease cases in Genesee County last year, the state continually attributes those cases to our facility.”

She suggests the department is trying to shift blame for bad decisions made by state health department officials during a deadly Legionnaires' disease outbreak five years ago.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.