Michigan orders Flint hospital to address Legionella risks
By DAVID EGGERT
LANSING, Mich. — Michigan ordered a Flint hospital Tuesday to immediately comply with federal recommendations that were issued due to its association with a deadly Legionnaires’ disease outbreak, saying the hospital’s water system is unsanitary and a possible source of illness.
The order, which was issued by the state Department of Health and Human Services, said McLaren Flint has insufficiently demonstrated compliance with recommendations made by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the fall.
The hospital fired back by accusing the state of doing nothing during the 2014-15 outbreak and retroactively casting blame after criminal charges were filed against 13 current or former state and city workers.
Some outside experts suspect the spike in cases was linked to a man-made public health crisis caused by Flint’s lead-contaminated tap water, but the state said a review of information initially provided by the hospital “has raised several new questions that require answers.”
The state cited a report from December 2014 in which a company that tested McLaren’s water said it seemed that the municipal water was not contributing to the hospital’s Legionella bacteria issues and the issues instead were “likely internal to the hospital system.”
The state said it will appoint a monitor, conduct independent water testing and force the hospital to cooperate with all requests for information.
McLaren said it already has provided much, if not all, of the information outlined in the order and plans to be fully responsive.
The state, which has come under scrutiny for mishandling the outbreak and waiting to notify the public, has been following up on Legionnaires’ cases after winning a legal dispute over access to records. It has wanted to know more about what the hospital is doing to strengthen its water system.
The order came the same day the mayor of Flint met with Gov. Rick Snyder to discuss Michigan’s decision to withdraw some financial assistance that was originally offered to help the beleaguered city and its residents cope with the crisis.
The state announced three weeks ago that it will stop paying a portion of customers’ bills and also halt covering Flint’s costs to use water from the Great Lakes Water Authority — a move that will save the state more than $2 million per month.
Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said Monday that the customer credits were supposed to continue through March and that she is disappointed by the “short notice” that they will last instead through February.