McLaren Flint has been ordered to immediately correct conditions in its facility to reduce risk of future exposure of Legionella at the hospital.
The orders came from the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs on Wednesday, June 12.
Under the Michigan Public Health Code, MDHHS has a duty “to prevent the spread of diseases and the existence of sources of contamination.” In carrying out its statutory responsibilities, MDHHS may issue an order to “correct, at the owner’s expense, a building or condition which violates health laws or which the local health officer or director reasonably believes to be a nuisance, unsanitary condition or cause of illness,” the department said in a press release.
LARA issued an order with identical requirements for 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.”
The orders require McLaren Flint to immediately comply with water restrictions, patient notification, data requests, public health investigations and official recommendations from the department.
“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 hospital was subject of Legionella disease outbreak investigations in 2014, 2015 and 2016. The MDHHS issued an order on Feb. 14, 2017 due to those investigations.
Three patients at McLaren Flint experienced conditions MDHHS believes to be associated with Legionnaires' disease with a possible association with their stays at the hospital in 2018, the MDHHS said.
"McLaren Flint has disputed the determinations and refused to fully implement recommendations given by both the CDC and MDHHS on how to investigate suspected cases in the future, and on the steps to be taken regarding the water system to better assure public health," the MDHHS said.
Two additional cases of Legionnaires' disease with association of McLaren Flint were reported in 2019.
"One of these cases is a definite healthcare-associated case as the individual spent 10 days at the facility during their disease incubation period," the MDHHS said.
MDHHS requested investigation assistance from the CDC, which the hospital agreed to. But MDHHS said the hospital has attempted to set conditions for the public health investigation that the department and CDC feel would hinder the investigation.
McLaren Flint issued the following statement:
"Our hospital treats sick people, including people that come to our facility with Legionnaires’ Disease contracted from community sources. Despite considerable evidence to the contrary, including a 100% increase in Legionnaire’s disease cases in Genesee County last year, the State continually attributes those cases to our facility.
In the last three years we have collected approximately 863 water samples for routine laboratory analysis of Legionella and conducted more than 3,000 measurements of residual oxidant in our facility water systems. We routinely share those results with our regulators and have never been issued a citation on our water system by the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs or any other regulatory agency. We welcomed the Genesee County Health Department and MDHHS in our hospital just yesterday for a sampling event (the third in the last six months) and will host the Centers for Disease Control in our facility later this month.
Yet today, on the eve of another significant court event regarding criminal charges against former MDHHS employees, the department issues this very public effort against our facility.
We are reviewing the MDHHS and LARA order now. We believe it is unfounded and represents the state’s continuous efforts to shift blame for their bad decisions made five years ago onto our hospital. We will respond to MDHHS within their prescribed time period and are exploring possible legal action against the department."