Aurora dry-docks its water features
Hospitals have gone to some lengths to make over their cold and sterile image in recent years by borrowing from nature. Healing gardens and babbling fountains grace lobbies and welcome anxious visitors. But for eight visitors at Aurora St. Luke’s South Shore hospital—the Cudahy, Wis., campus of the system’s St. Luke’s Medical Center in Milwaukee—that welcome turned sour after contact with a water wall left them with pneumonia.
An earth-tone water wall, installed 18 months earlier during a renovation of the hospital’s lobby, turned out to be the culprit behind an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease that sent eight people to the hospital, Wisconsin health officials said. A water-borne bacterium causes Legionnaires, which can be fatal, and its less-serious cousin, the Potomac fever, says an overview by the Mayo Clinic.
Adam Beeson, a spokesman for Aurora Health Care, which owns a dozen Wisconsin hospitals, says the water wall—and nine other water features across the system—were shut off and cleaned as soon as health officials suspected South Shore as the possible outbreak source.
Aurora contacted more than 4,000 visitors to the hospital after health officials discovered all eight infected with the Legionella bacterium had visited South Shore, Beeson says. He stresses that patients entering the emergency room did not pass by the wall, which he notes was cleaned weekly and drained monthly.
No decision has been made whether to restart the system’s water displays, Beeson says.