Carmella Scafuri, a 93-year-old resident at Sky View Rehabilitation and Health Care Center in Croton-on-Hudson, New York has died from Legionnaire’s disease. According to news sources, Ms. Scafuri was one of two people at this facility to be recently diagnosed with Legionnaires’ disease, a severe but highly preventable form of pneumonia. Sky View Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, a 192-bed luxury nursing home, is located at 1280 Albany Post Road in Croton-on-Hudson.
Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino first reported the two cases on Monday, October 30th at a news conference in White Plains, New York. The Westchester County Department of Health and the New York State Department of Health are partnering to try to pinpoint the source of the outbreak. They have ascertained that a water sample collected from the nursing home in the summer tested positive for Legionella pneumonia bacteria; two subsequent tests in August and September, however, were negative.
Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks occur when the Legionella bacteria proliferate within poorly maintained water systems – common sources are cooling towers, potable water systems, ice machines, showers, hot tubs, and decorative fountains. The bacteria is typically disseminated through water vapor; when people inhale or aspirate this mist, they can contract Legionnaires’ disease. The elderly, smokers, or people with underlying medical conditions like diabetes, cancer, or COPD are particularly susceptible to infection. In nursing home environments, 1 out of every 4 people who catch the disease will die.
The initial symptoms of Legionnaires’ disease present within a 10-day incubation period; these include shortness of breath, coughing, headache, fever or chills, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and mental confusion. The illness can be treated with antibiotics. However, severe or undiagnosed cases can lead to complications including lung failure and death.
Since Sky View Rehabilitation and Health Care Center does not have a cooling tower, investigators are currently searching for other sources of the disease.
New York City and state health officials and policy makers currently lead the nation in implementing new procedures to control the spread of Legionnaires’ disease. After multiple 2015 outbreaks in the Bronx sickened more than 135 people, killing 13, strict legislation has been enacted requiring building owners to adequately test and maintain their water systems. Even so, Legionnaires’ disease cases both in New York City and across the state of New York have increased by over 70% in the past year.
Can I Sue a Nursing Home for Legionnaire’s Disease?
Nursing homes and long-term care facilities have long known the risks that a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak would pose to their patients. And yet many of these healthcare providers have been slow to implement the strict water system testing and maintenance protocols that are essential to control the growth of Legionella pneumonia bacteria.
A June 2017 CDC analysis ascertained that, out of 21 United States jurisdictions it surveyed, 76 percent reported health care-associated cases of Legionnaires’ disease.
“Legionnaires’ disease in hospitals is widespread, deadly, and preventable … Controlling these bacteria in water systems can be challenging, but it is essential to protect patients.” – CDC Acting Directyor Anne Schuchat, M.D.
The legal and medical issues that arise from Legionnaire’s disease infections can be quite complex, as our legal team has discovered in handling dozens of these cases over many years. Legionnaires’ disease outbreaks at nursing homes we have or are currently investigating include:
- 2017: Cross Road Retirement Community, Asheboro, North Carolina (2 cases)
- 2017: SilverCreek on Main senior living community, Maple Grove, Minnesota (2 cases)
- 2017: NorthPointe Health Centre, Fresno, California (1 death)
- 2017: Horizon Health & Subacute Center, Fresno, California (1 case)
- 2017: Country Meadows retirement community, Frederick County, Maryland (1 case)
- 2017: Wesley Health Care Center, Saratoga Springs, New York (4 cases)
- 2016: The Brunswick at Attleboro nursing home, Bucks County, Pennsylvania (4 cases, 1 death)
- 2016: Seton Square East Complex, Reynoldsburg, Ohio (5 cases)
- 2016: Chillicothe Ohio VA Medical Center (1 case)
- 2015: Illinois Veterans’ Home, Quincy, Illinois (50+ patients sickened, 12 died)
If you or a loved one has contracted Legionnaire’s disease at a nursing home, we recommend that you contact a lawyer to see if you have grounds to file a successful personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit.