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WTAE Interviews Harry Cohen about UPMC Mold Situation

PITTSBURGH - It’s a story that has many people on edge: Agencies digging into UPMC in the aftermath of the mold outbreak that may be linked to three patient deaths.

Local attorney Harry S. Cohen said on Friday he has been fielding calls about that outbreak. He wouldn’t go into specifics but said that the calls are from possible mold outbreak victims.

“We’ve been contacted for inquiring about what their legal rights are, having been exposed to fungal infections at UPMC”

- Harry S. Cohen

While it’s too early in the investigation to tell anyone what they can expect, Cohen said one of the key questions he’s keeping tabs on is whether the type of fungal outbreak at UPMC was preventable.

Cohen would not reveal details about who has called him. He said that several people who believe their health has been compromised at UPMC have recently reached out.

The attorney has handled legal battles against UPMC before. He cautions the public that compromised health within hospitals does not guarantee a legal case.

“Hospital-based infections are, unfortunately, part of health care these days, and many of them are uncontrollable”

- Harry S. Cohen

This latest fungal infection is a reminder of a shutdown of UPMC’s transplant program in 2011

- Harry S. Cohen

That shutdown was prompted after the recipient of an organ contracted hepatitis from the donor, and litigation is still ongoing, he said.

“UPMC has not exactly been forthcoming with a lot of the investigations that took place, The wheels of justice grind slowly.”

- Harry S. Cohen

Cohen also said this possible mold outbreak is similar to when agencies investigated the VA for a Legionnaires’ disease outbreak a few years ago.

More than 20 VA patients were sickened, and at least six died after contracting Legionnaires’ disease at a Pittsburgh Veterans hospital. Some of the agencies that are now investigating UPMC were also involved in the VA investigation.

UPMC has set up a hotline at 412-864-0250 for people who have mold-related questions or concerns.