Sunday, September 28, 2014

Iowa City VA patients not told about bacteria problem

Tony Leys, September 28, 2014
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(Photo: Tony Leys/The Register)

IOWA CITY, Ia. – Leaders of the Veterans Affairs hospital here plan to spend $6.5 million to combat a potentially deadly bacteria that has been found in the facility's water pipes, but they have not informed patients about the problem.

Legionella bacteria can cause Legionnaires' disease, a dangerous type of pneumonia. VA administrators confirmed to the Register that they've found the bacteria in several sinks and other water outlets in the past few years. But they said they've been able to control the problem, and they have not seen the need to cause alarm by telling patients.

"There's a very, very low risk involved at these levels," said VA pathologist Stacy Klutts, who is helping oversee the effort to resolve the problem. Klutts stressed that VA doctors have closely monitored patients for signs of the disease, and they have not found any infections.

Such assurances don't satisfy Dick Allison, a Vietnam War veteran who uses the hospital and is a former employee. Allison learned about the Legionella bacteria from friends who remain on staff.

He's upset that administrators aren't being upfront with the public and letting patients decide for themselves whether they want to drink the hospital's water or take showers in it.

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