The Laundry – Hospital’s Dirty Truth

Steven E. North, Esq.
Shari James, Paralegal

When one thinks of contracting a deadly infection in a hospital bed sheets would not ordinarily come to mind.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention released figures in April, 2014 that estimate that 75,000 patients die each year from infections they pick up at health care facilities. Surprisingly, some of those infections come from the improper handling of hospital linens.

The Children's Hospital in New Orleans, Louisiana, knows all too well the repercussions of unclean linens, after several patients died from a flesh-eating fungal infection, mucormycosis. This infection is believed to have been transmitted by the bed linens, towels and gowns used by facility. Patients and members of the community were not informed of the outbreak until almost one year after the first death occurred.

An April 20, 2014 article in The New York Times, "A Deadly Fungus and Questions at a Hospital", details the condition of linens used by the hospital, stating that "washcloths were being used as cleaning rags to wipe down bathrooms..., bags of dirty towels and sheets had to be fished out of the hospital trash bins and at times the linens were left in dust covered hallways before being used". The off-site laundry used by the hospital was found to have poor ventilation systems and no inspections conducted to ensure that the plant was free of mold.

A hospital is required to take reasonable measures to assure the health and safety of its patients. The C.D.C. recently started an initiative to help hospital and health departments communicate with the public about events such as outbreaks and medical errors.

Full disclosure and proper practices are key to assure that hospital liability and medical malpractice claims are avoided.