Lawsuit Claims Trinity Employee Caused Hepatitis-C Outbreak - - Bismarck/Minot/Williston/Dickinson-KXNEWS,ND

Lawsuit Claims Trinity Employee Caused Hepatitis-C Outbreak

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The assisted living facility at the center of a mysterious outbreak of Hepatitis-C in Minot has filed suit against Trinity Health.

ManorCare filed the suit in federal court this week.

The state Department of Health has identified 46 patients who contracted a genetically similar strain of Hepatitis-C in what is the largest unsolved outbreak of the disease in U.S. history.

And it linked all but one of the cases to ManorCare in Minot.

But, as Jim Olson reports, a lawsuit filed this week claims Trinity Health is responsible for spreading the disease to the victims.

The lawsuit filed in US District Court alleges that one person is responsible for the spread of Hepatitis-C among nearly four dozen mostly-elderly men and women.

It claims that the person, whose name is not released and is identified in the legal papers only as "Employee A," is an employee of Trinity Health who provided blood services, known as phlebotomy, to patients at ManorCare under contracts between the two facilities dating back to 2003.

The lawsuit says Trinity is, or should have been, aware of serious longstanding problems with Employee A's phlebotomy practices. It says the administrator of Trinity's long term care facility previously prohibited Employee A from performing blood draws at that Trinity facility.

The suit alleges that Employee A performed the significant majority of Trinity's phlebotomy services at ManorCare and that ManorCare had no duty to supervise or control that worker.

The lawsuit also says that in September of last year, when investigators from the US Centers for Disease Control and the North Dakota Department of Health were at ManorCare observing practices related to procedures that might have spread Hepatitis-C, Employee A was absent, citing a family illness, resulting in no observation of that employee's phlebotomy practices.

The mysterious outbreak of the potentially deadly disease was first reported by the Department of Health in August of last year.

The initial report said three patients, all elderly, had contracted Hepatitis-C.

Two months later, the department said the total number of infected patients had risen to 28.

By November, 35 people were confirmed to be part of what was now understood to be one of the largest outbreaks of Hepatitis-C in the nation's history and was under scrutiny by state and federal investigators.

Then, in late December, the Health Department announced preliminary findings of its investigation - saying all of the now 44 confirmed cases, had been or were residents at ManorCare.

As of last month, the total number of cases had grown to 46 with one very interesting note - the just-discovered 46th patient had had no contact with ManorCare.

The lawsuit filed this week claims that the 46th patient is a resident at a different assisted living facility in Minot, and that Employee A - the Trinity worker who had done the majority of phlebotomy at ManorCare, had also performed blood work on the 46th patient under a contract between Trinity and the long term care facility where the 46th patient resides.

The lawsuit asks for a jury trial with the jury deciding the amount of damages.

Jim Olson, KX News.

Trinity has another two weeks to file a response to the allegations in the lawsuit.

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