Congressman Doyle Reacts to VA Inspector General’s Report on Pittsburgh VA Legionnaire’s Disease Outbreak

April 23, 2013
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – April 23, 2013 - U.S. Representative Mike Doyle (PA-14) released the following statement in response to the release this afternoon of a US Department of Veterans Affairs Inspector General’s report on the outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease in the Pittsburgh Veterans Affairs Health System.

 “The VA Inspector General’s report concluded that the Pittsburgh VA fell short on several counts in protecting our veterans, and as a result, many veterans contracted Legionnaire’s Disease and a number of them died.

“I am deeply disappointed and disturbed by this report, which describes the Pittsburgh VA’s numerous shortcomings in great detail. I expect VAPHS to ensure that all of the recommendations in the IG’s report are promptly and fully implemented and that a more effective process is put in place for monitoring and treating VAPHS water systems and treating VAPHS patients. The VA also needs to hold the individuals who didn’t do their duty accountable. That’s the only way to restore public confidence in the Pittsburgh VA.

“I will monitor the Pittsburgh VA’s actions closely to ensure that it takes all the steps necessary to get the Legionella bacteria under control and keep its patients safe, and I will work with my colleagues in Pennsylvania’s Congressional delegation to draft any legislation needed to ensure that the VA takes all appropriate measures in its facilities across the country to prevent, report, and rapidly address any future outbreaks of communicable diseases in VA facilities across the country.

“Our veterans deserve no less.”

Thousands of Americans a year contract Legionnaires Disease, and a small number of people die from it – usually individuals who are already in ill health.  Some of the most common sources of Legionnaires Disease are water systems in hotels or hospitals.  Most such facilities have water treatment equipment to kill Legionella bacteria. 

On November 16, the Pittsburgh VA announced that an outbreak of Legionnaires Disease had taken place at its University Drive facility in Pittsburgh, infecting four patients.  The VA subsequently announced that a fifth patient had contracted the disease – and subsequently, that one of the five had died. Congressman Doyle concluded that it was necessary to request an investigation by an independent objective entity to determine what happened and what should be done to ensure that it never happens again. Other Members of the Pennsylvania Congressional delegation agreed, and in the end requested investigations by both the VA Inspector General and the House Committee on Veterans Affairs.

Today the IG released its report on this investigation and it concluded that the Pittsburgh VA failed on a number of different levels in preventing the spread of the Legionella bacteria, in detecting Legionella in the facility’s water supply, in addressing its presence when it did find it, and in testing its patients for the disease. The Pittsburgh VA also failed to notify state, local, and federal health agencies in a timely fashion of the dangerous situation caused by high levels of Legionella bacteria in its water.

Click here to read the complete VA IG's report.