- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 14, 2017

PITTSBURGH (AP) - A lawsuit is targeting a third western Pennsylvania hospital in the death of a cancer patient following a fungal infection.

The suit filed Tuesday in Allegheny County Court against the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a linen vendor concerns the October death of 65-year-old John Haines at UPMC Shadyside. Lawyers said he was diagnosed with a rhizopus fungal infection after several weeks of chemotherapy treatment and died of cardiac arrest, sepsis and fungal pneumonia.

Previous legal action has concerned patients at UPMC Presbyterian and UPMC Montefiore and also has targeted the company that washes all of UPMC’s laundry.

The hospital system said upon admission Haines had another “very opportunistic and deadly bacteria,” was then diagnosed with leukemia, and “had almost no white blood cells, so his immune system was not functioning.”

“It is critically important to understand that rhizopus is present in all environments and does not cause illness in anyone except for those with the most severely compromised immune systems,” the UPMC statement said. “Despite our best protocols, it can still be carried into the hospital on the shoes or clothes of visitors.”

The health system said there was no way to tell whether Haines, “an avid gardener,” contracted his infection before his hospitalization but “we decided, however, to classify it as hospital-acquired per (Centers for Disease Control) guidelines even though clinically there can be no certainty.” Linens from UPMC-Shadyside have been tested and no rhizopus was found, UPMC said.

Paris Companies CEO Dave Stern said the linen company “consistently meets or exceeds accreditation standards and regulatory guidelines for laundering linens” and continues to cooperate with regulatory agencies. The CDC and state health department both reviewed the facts in the case and “neither agency identified linens as the source of the problem,” he said.

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