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Report clears Pittsburgh VA of allegations that Legionnaires' test delays affected treatment


PITTSBURGH — The Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System occasionally delayed reporting test results for patients suspected of having Legionnaires' disease, but treatment wasn't affected by those delays, the VA's Office of Inspector General said in a report issued Tuesday.

The eight-page report looked into the way tests for the disease were handled after a former employee, who wasn't named, claimed last year that test results were delayed for days. The investigation examined 5,700 tests and found there were three cases in which results weren't released for three or four days, but treatment began on or before the day doctors ordered those tests.

At least six patients died and 22 were sickened during a Legionnaires' outbreak at the Pittsburgh VA facilities from February 2011 to November 2012. The disease is a severe form of pneumonia spread by bacteria commonly found in water supplies.

"The report is, by and large, a positive reminder that we are moving in the right direction," said Barbara Forsha, interim director of the Pittsburgh VA. "It does not, however, minimize any past missteps. We will always remember the hard lessons learned to get to where we are and which are the driving factors behind why we operate one of the most comprehensive Legionella control programs in health care today."

The report also found no evidence to substantiate an allegation that the Pittsburgh VA purposely flushed its water system to minimize the chance of finding waterborne Legionella bacteria.

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