MDHHS orders McLaren Flint to comply with action to address Legionella risk, McLaren fires back

FLINT — The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) last week ordered McLaren Flint Hospital to immediately correct conditions in its facility to reduce the risk of future exposure to Legionella at the hospital.

But McLaren Flint hospital’s new CEO Chad Grant does not agree, firing back in published reports that the Michigan health department did not sufficiently protect the public in Genesee County against an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in 2014 and 2015.

Grant said, however, the hospital will comply by March 10 and will submit documents on improvements to its water quality management plan.

In a press release issued by MDHHS last Tuesday, the agency stated, “Under the Michigan Public Health Code, MDHHS has a duty ‘to prevent the spread of diseases and the existence of sources of contamination.’ And the legislature has vested the Department with broad investigatory power to protect the public health. Further, in carrying out its statutory responsibilities, MDHHS may issue an order to ‘correct, at the owner’s expense, a building or condition which violates health laws or which the local health officer or director reasonably believes to be a nuisance, unsanitary condition, or cause of illness.’”

“While we have attempted to work with McLaren Flint to address the ongoing health risk of healthcare-associated Legionella at its facility, we are issuing this Order today as a result of McLaren Flint’s insufficient response to our requests, as well as to request additional information regarding how they implemented the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendations made in October and November 2016,” said MDHHS Director Nick Lyon, in the MDHHS press release.

“As you are aware, McLaren Flint has cooperated fully with public health authorities throughout the ‘Flint Water Crisis,’” Grant said in a letter to Lyon. “McLaren Flint’s communications with (Genesee County Health Department) about Legionella issues started in the early summer months of 2014 and continues to this day.”

Grant, quoted in Crain’s Detroit Business said, “As recently as Jan. 18, following a meeting with MDHHS, CDC, McLaren Flint representatives, McLaren Flint’s technical experts and consultants, there was an apparent consensus that MDHHS and CDC were satisfied with McLaren Flint’s water management program. It would seem the level of concern MDHSS raises in its media-facing action does not reflect the level of action the agency demonstrates in the community.”

The MDHHS press release stated that as a result of their review of newly obtained documents, MDHHS has determined that McLaren Flint was working with Environmental Testing & Consulting (ETC) in November and December 2014 to test their water system.

Grant said the state’s order contains “a broad request for documents” that duplicate documents already provided to the state, the county and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Grant also strongly disagreed with MDHSS’ and Lyon’s contention that McLaren Flint’s “water system is a nuisance, is an unsanitary condition, and is a possible source of illness.”

“McLaren Flint has a water management plan that was designed by a nationally recognized expert,” Grant said. Moreover, Grant said the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said McLaren’s plan is “a national best practice.”

MDHSS contends because they insufficient information from the hospital on testing results, “the department was forced to issue the order” last week.

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