Legionella found at JMC/Jacobi takes quick action; no reported injuries

Christopher Mastromano, Jacobi Medical Center CEO, stands in front of stacked bottled water in a command center at the hospital on Tuesday, August 2 and discussed measures to protect patients and visitors for legionella.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

One of the borough’s public hospitals took quick action when Legionella bacteria was discovered in its water supply.

Officials at Jacobi Medical Center on Pelham Parkway held a walk through of its facility for media on Thursday, August 2 where it highlighted new water filters for showers and faucets, a command center stocked with bottled water and clean wipes for bathing and a filtration monitoring system to protect the hospital against further Legionella outbreaks.

Legionella, which causes Legionnaire’s Disease (a type of pneumonia) when ingested, was found as part of a routine water test of multiple locations in the hospital’s water supply, said officials.

The hospital expects to be using bottled water for up to two months, they said.

“As part of our aggressive water monitoring program, our routine required testing of our potable water supply and found very low levels of Legionella bacteria at NYC Health and Hospitals/Jacobi,” read a statement from the city’s public hospital system. “Per guidance from the New York State Department of Health, which regulates hospitals, we have taken steps to prevent any impact on our patients, staff or visitors. Safety is always our highest priority.”

As of Thursday, August 7, no one at the hospital has gotten Legionella at Jacobi, said a medical center spokesman.

Christopher Mastromano, Jacobi Medical Center CEO, said that the hospital automatically tests its water supply in cooling towers and in its potable water, and as a result of a recent test taken in early July and the findings received at the end of the month, some of the potable water was found to contain low-levels of Legionella.

A filter installed on a sink as part of Jacobi’s efforts.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

“Under New York State Department of Health guidelines, if more than 30 percent of the samples we take have any Legionella, we automatically increase our ‘(water) treatments’,” said Mastromano.

As part of the stepped-up measures the hospital is ‘super-heating’ hot water tanks and flushing out the hospitals water system, with the hospital monitoring the results (and hopefully noting improvements) by the middle of August, said Mastromano.

“Because of the testing, the DOH asks us to put our most at-risk patients on water restrictions,” said the CEO, adding “We made a decision that instead of just focusing on those, we were going to put everyone on water restrictions.”

As of August 2, some 15,000 bottles of water were distributed at the hospital.

The hospital has also checked to see if anyone had Legionella that was acquired elsewhere, going back as far as two-months. They hadn’t, said the CEO.

Silvio Mazzella, Jacobi Medical Center’s Community Advisory Board chairman, said that he has received regular updates about the Legionella concern from the CEO and top hospital officials.

“The way Jacobi handled it, I got good feelings,” said Mazzella. “They immediately notified me and told me how they were going to handle it.”

The Jacobi CEO washes his hand at a sink with a newly-installed water filter.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

Mazzella said that the hospital showed they care about patients and staff, and that all stakeholders were informed in an appropriate manner.

“They actually took the worry away because of their concern and showed that they actually cared,” said Mazzella. “I was very proud of them.”

The hospital was well-prepared, he added.

This is not the first outbreak of Legionella in the borough in recent years.

Earlier this year, several people contracted Legionnaires disease in Co-op City leading to one fatality.

In 2015, in the 15 cooling towers in the 10461 zip code – which is Jacobi’s zip code – were found to have Legionella, with 13 people testing positive for Legionnaires’ Disease.

That very same year, a Legionella outbreak killed 12 in the south Bronx.

Christopher Mastromano, Jacobi CEO, speaks about water safety in the mechanical room of one of the buildings in the hospital.
Community News Group / Patrick Rocchio

Reach Reporter Patrick Rocchio at (718) 260–4597. E-mail him at procchio@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @patrickfrocchio.

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