Aurora dry-docks its wa­ter fea­tures

Modern Healthcare - - Outliers -

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.

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