DuBOIS — Families of two organ transplant patients who are blaming their deaths on a mold outbreak at University of Pittsburgh Medical Center hospitals are now also targeting the hospital’s linen vendor, according to a report by The Associated Press.
Paris Healthcare Linen Service, part of Paris Companies, of DuBois, was added Thursday to a lawsuit brought by Pittsburgh attorney Brendan Lupetin on behalf of the families of Daniel Krieg, 56, of St. Marys, and Che DuVall, 70, of Perryopolis. Krieg had a kidney transplant in July 2015 and died in July 2016 at UPMC Montefiore hospital. DuVall had a lung transplant and died last February at UPMC Presbyterian. Previously, two similar lawsuits filed by the families of other transplant patients who died have each settled for $1.35 million.
According to AP, Lupetin filed a 16-page report he recently received from UPMC’s attorneys in which experts said they found the same kind of mold that allegedly killed Krieg and DuVall at the Paris linens plant.
But while Lupetin says Krieg and DuVall were compromised by mold in their lungs, UPMC is disputing that theory, saying other factors led to their deaths.
The Courier Express/Tri-County Sunday reached out to Paris Companies CEO Dave Stern for comment Friday.
“Family has always come first at Paris Companies, and our hearts and prayers go out to those families who have suffered a loss. We pride ourselves on being a family-owned business with an unwavering commitment to ethics and integrity,” Stern said. “At the same time, we want to reassure our customers and the community that they can and should continue to place faith in us and in the products that we provide. Our products are safe.”
Stern noted that Paris has a long history of meeting or exceeding accreditation standards and regulatory guidelines for its industry, including certification from the Healthcare Linen Accreditation Council (HLAC). Founded 10 years ago, HLAC is an independent, nonprofit organization that inspects and accredits laundries that process reusable textiles for hospitals, nursing homes and other healthcare facilities.
“In fact, our emphasis on continuous improvement has set the industry benchmark, which demonstrates our ongoing commitment to quality and safety,” Stern added. “It has and will remain our top priority.”
He also pointed to the company’s ongoing commitment to the DuBois community by supporting charities that include the local school district, the volunteer fire department, and the DuBois Free Medical Clinic.
The company has a long history in the community as well, having started in DuBois in 1918 as a dry cleaning business.
Today it is Pennsylvania’s largest independently owned textile services company. It provides uniforms, corporate apparel and healthcare linen management services to clients in Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, Ohio and West Virginia. The facility on Tom Mix Drive, DuBois, has the capacity to launder 50 million pounds of linen a year.
Paris employs 800 people across all of its facilities in several states, including 450 who work at the company’s facilities in DuBois. Stern noted that generations of families – and even siblings – have earned their paychecks from the company.
“We stand by our reputation, and we continue to cooperate with regulatory agencies that monitor our business,” Stern said. “In addition, we have invited our customers to visit our state-of-the-art processing facility here in DuBois so they can get a closer look at our operation for themselves. This way, they can see first-hand what we do on a daily basis to ensure high-quality, reliable, safe linens are delivered to their health care facility.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention did not mention the 16-page report in its final report last May on the mold outbreak at UPMC. The CDC report said it had found no definitive source for the mold, but it did point to the hospital’s ventilation issues as a possible source.
Following the CDC report, UPMC has changed its ventilation system. According to an AP report, UPMC has also started using “specially treated linens on high-risk transplant patients.”
Reports indicate that the CDC is planning to review the 16-page report, which was generated after UPMC hired experts to inspect the DuBois plant last February, as well as UPMC Montefiore and UPMC Presbyterian.
UPMC has not commented directly on its experts’ report on the Paris plant, but its Chief Quality Officer Tami Minnier issued a statement after Paris was added to the lawsuits saying, “We continue to be transparent with federal and state health regulators and we shared all our findings with them.”
UPMC’s network of 22 hospitals still obtains their linen from Paris, according to the AP report.