Dec 21, 2021

Charleston, South Carolina, Lawsuits Allege Bacteria Found in Roper Hospital Water Causing Infections in Former Surgery Patients

The new cases allege the first of these bacterial infections to impact a plastic surgery patient occurred in 2011.

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New lawsuits were filed in Charleston County, alleging an infection-prevention expert at Roper Hospital was made aware that patients were contracting dangerous bacterial infections but failed to address the problem.

Additionally, the lawsuits filed in November allege that the expert delayed notifying state and federal health authorities, reported The Post and Courier.

The lawsuits were brought by breast cancer survivors who developed non-tuberculous mycobacteria infections following breast reconstruction surgery at Roper. This bacteria is also widely present in soil, surface water and tap water.

Other lawsuits related to the infections were first filed in 2018, none of which have been resolved. Water at Roper Hospital tested positive for non-tuberculous mycobacteria in 2018.

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The new cases allege the first of these bacterial infections to impact a plastic surgery patient occurred in 2011, according to The Post and Courier. According to the lawsuit, around November 2015, a Charleston plastic surgeon alerted hospital officials to the fact his patients were developing infections after surgeries at Roper.

Hospital infection preventionist Katherine Ward did not act quickly enough, added the lawsuits.

“We originally alleged Roper should have known its outdated, contaminated water system was causing bacterial infections in patients,” said attorney Jay Ward, of McGown, Hood & Felder, who represents some of the plaintiffs, reported The Post and Courier. “Through discovery conducted in the cases, and as set forth in the new complaints against Kathy Ward, we are now confident Roper was made aware of the problem and delayed acting until after numerous preventable infections occurred.” 

A Roper St. Francis official previously told The Post and Courier that 16,000 surgeries of all kinds are performed at Roper Hospital each year, and the majority of surgical patients never developed one of these infections. The hospital system’s water system was also treated to fix the bacteria issue as well. 

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