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Hospital Blamed for Lax Crisis Response

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Scripps Memorial Hospital should have done more to protect seriously ill patients from exposure to a potentially lethal fungus that thrived during remodeling and was also probably blown in from the helicopter landing site, a state report says. A cluster of patients at the La Jolla hospital tested positive for the common fungus, aspergillus, from Oct. 28 to Jan. 28, a time during which the hospital was remodeling. Six of the patients died, but an autopsy was done on only one, who had severe aspergillus bronchopneumonia in both lungs. “Without an in-depth medical record review, it could not be determined if aspergillosis was the primary or contributing cause of death for the five other deaths,” the report said. The hospital “failed to prevent and control aspergillus cases during construction” and “failed to maintain a sanitary environment . . . [which] may have contributed to the increased incidence of aspergillosis cases,” said the 19-page report, disclosed this week. State investigators found a heavy layer of white dust coating many of the intensive care units’ surfaces, such as beds, emergency resuscitation equipment, windows, curtains and nurses stations. Hospital officials defended the facility and said no patients have reported having the fungus since the end of January.


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