Rush Oak Park patient sues over Legionnaire's Disease

Bellwood resident spent weeks in intensive care after alleged exposure to bacteria

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

A 66-year-old Bellwood woman is suing Rush Oak Park Hospital for unspecified monetary damages, claiming she contracted Legionnaire's Disease there during a visit to the hospital's emergency room in July.

Joyce Walker filed a lawsuit in the Law Division of Cook County Circuit Court on Aug. 15, claiming that Rush failed to prevent the spread of Legionella bacteria at the hospital after a case of Legionnaires Disease was reported there in May 2019.

Rush spokeswoman Deb Song said the hospital does not comment on pending litigation.

Daniel R. Seidman, of Seidman Margulis & Fairman LLP, who is representing Walker in the lawsuit, said in an email that Walker was admitted to the hospital on July 15 through July 17.

"By the next day, she was very ill with Legionnaire's Disease, with severe respiratory distress," Seidman wrote. "She was admitted to one hospital and transferred to another. Ms. Walker arrested in the ambulance: Her heart stopped."

Walker was revived but spent the next several weeks in intensive care.

"She has suffered from severe respiratory illness including bilateral pneumonia," Seidman wrote in the email. "She was just recently discharged, but lasting effects from the illness are expected."

The lawsuit claims that Rush Oak Park "failed to timely and properly implement the use of point-of-use filters" to prevent the spread of the bacteria.

It also states that Rush failed to implement appropriate control measures and maintain appropriate water temperatures at the hospital.

In late July, the Illinois Department of Public Health reported that two people who had been patients at Rush Oak Park Hospital had contracted Legionnaire's Disease. Exactly where those patients contracted the disease remains under investigation by the IDPH.

Rush Oak Park Hospital said at the time that it does not believe the hospital was the source.

"The source of these two cases are yet to be determined," the hospital said when the cases were first made public.

IDPH said in July that Legionella bacteria spreads during outbreaks at buildings with "complex water systems like hotels, hospitals, long-term care facilities and cruise ships."

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Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 17th, 2019 6:08 PM

@ BK: Personally I thought the issue of the contaminated water rests in the goose neck high faucets, the j traps for sinks and showers and any condensation collection pan for air conditioners, de humidifiers and refrigeration units. Don't rule out decorative fountains.

Bruce Kline  

Posted: August 17th, 2019 1:47 PM

Legionella can be found normally in fresh water and is hard to totally eliminate. So, Brian you are correct, this has nothing what so ever to do with contamination of crossed plumbing lines. Legionella becomes a problem when there is massive overgrowth as might occur in hot tubs or cooling towers. Hospitals are not the only institution susceptible. Big hotels are as well, like where it all started in 1976.

Brian Slowiak  

Posted: August 17th, 2019 9:17 AM

There are no cross connections between dirty water and fresh water anywhere. Fresh water is moved by pressure and dirty water is moved by pitch or gravity. If there were a cross anywhere both fresh water and sanitary systems would fail within minutes.

Jolyn Crawford  

Posted: August 16th, 2019 8:22 PM

that's what happens when there are cross connections in the plumbing lines....dirty water gets into clean water...

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