DC hospital settles over water crisis

Washington, D.C.-based St. Elizabeths Hospital settled a federal class-action lawsuit over the hospital's mishandling of its October 2019 water crisis and 2020 COVID-19 procedures, DCist reported Feb. 14.

St. Elizabeths shut off its water after the Sept. 26 discovery of Legionella and pseudomonas bacteria in its water system. After two rounds of chlorination, officials deemed the water system free of bacteria and safe to use on Oct. 23. The hospital continued to admit patients even as existing patients and staff members were forced to use portable showers and cook with bottled water, according to the report. A class-action lawsuit was filed the same day the water was deemed safe.

The lawsuit was amended in April 2020 after more than 187 patients contracted COVID-19 and 14 patients died. Advocacy program Disability Rights D.C. said that in the first year of the pandemic, more than half of the patients contracted COVID-19, and 17 patients and one staff member died, according to the report.

The settlement requires the Washington, D.C.-run psychiatric hospital to update its emergency procedures; provide specific documentation to show the water contamination issue has been solved; maintain personal protective equipment for patients and staff; transfer patients if necessary and ensure their care is not cut off at those facilities; and keep patients, families and the public informed about future emergencies.


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