Family of Legionella patient who died plans to sue Mount Carmel

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GROVE CITY, Ohio — Jeff Rezes lost his mom, Deanna, earlier this month. She was one of 16 people who contracted Legionnaires' disease after visiting Mount Carmel Grove City hospital.

Deanna Rezes is the only known patient to have died after being exposed to the Legionella bacteria that typically attacks the lungs. The health department has said the patients were exposed between late April and mid-May during visits or stays at the hospital.

Jeff’s dad, Tom Rezes, lost his wife of 60 years.

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“That was a tough day,” Tom said.

Deanna first showed signs of Legionnaire’s disease after a short stay at Mount Carmel Grove City between May 18 and May 20. She returned to the hospital May 28, was confirmed to have it, and then died June 2.

“I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since,” Tom said from his Grove City home Thursday. “It’s been traumatic.”

Jeff said learning what they now know about the outbreak has been “frustrating.”

Mount Carmel administrators told 10 Investigates during their only television interview last week that inadequate disinfecting of its own water system may have contributed to the outbreak. The likely source: the hospital’s hot water supply.

“Could things have been done better, absolutely,” said Tim Keane, a Legionella remediation expert hired by Mount Carmel Health System.

Keane said that the hospital could have disinfected its water supply again before opening the newly constructed facility in April.

Construction issues delayed the hospital from opening in February and Mount Carmel Grove City President Sean McKibben told 10 Investigates last week that the water systems on certain floors that were disinfected in February were not re-cleaned in April prior to opening.

The hospital also did not test for Legionella prior to opening. Doing so is not required by federal regulators, but Keane recommends it for all hospitals.

The hospital has since flushed its system, installed a permanent supplemental disinfection system and is working with state and local health departments to test and re-test the water supply every two weeks. It has also installed filters and as of June 13 said it believes its water is now safe.

The hospital says it first learned of confirmed cases of Legionnaires' disease on May 15 and alerted health officials the next day. When asked by 10 Investigates if it could have notified the public sooner than May 31, hospital administrators said they could not have because they weren’t certain the earliest cases were linked nor did they know at the time that the source was coming from inside the hospital.

The Rezes’ Attorney says he has drafted a lawsuit but has not filed it. That could happen next week.

Two other lawsuits have been filed in response to the outbreak.