Families of GHS patients who died from infection hire lawyers - FOX Carolina 21

Families of GHS patients who died from infection hire lawyers

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GREENVILLE, SC (FOX Carolina) -

Some upstate families believe they're not getting answers so they're getting lawyers.

Families of surgery patients at Greenville Hospital System said their loved ones died from negligence and they want to know why.

It's been almost a month since the hospital system announced that an infection caused by an atypical mycobacterium affected some surgery patients in their care.

Since then, they've found that 15 people got the rare infection. Three patients have died and doctors think the infection was a contributing factor.

The hospital believes the infection was linked to a piece of equipment that's now been removed, but the investigation is ongoing.

The families said they've never gotten a call from the hospital so they hired a legal team headed by Greenville medical malpractice attorney Blake Smith. He said he's already talking to more families of different patients who were also affected. They think that the hospital may have known about the bacteria sooner than what was announced. Now they want to know what was known, and when.

Lori Weinacker and Ellandra Davis only met Wednesday, but now they have the same questions. They want to know what happened in the operating room at GHS when their husband and mother, respectively, died from what doctors called a "surgical infection."

Weinacker said her husband, Henry, checked into GHS for open heart surgery on March 27. He went home, but weeks later he was back in hospitals being treated for pneumonia before it got worse.

She described bacteria running down his chest after it literally opened up at the surgery wound. She said by mid-June, doctors  told her that he had an infection caused when bacteria got into his incision.

All the explanation the Weinackers said they got after he passed away on June 22 was a letter.

It warned patients of certain types of surgery, and that they may have been exposed to a rare  bacteria which could cause infection.

Davis said she didn't even get a letter for her mother Ella Mattison.

Mattison's open heart surgery was last September. Davis said her mother was in re-hab until January, but was never away from medical care again. She also had two more "repair" surgeries, plus another procedure, since March.

On her discharge day, June 17, Davis said they were only told that Mattison had a rare infection that the hospital was investigating.

Mattison died on June 19 at age 59. Her family says they haven't heard from doctors since.

Weinacker and Davis believe what happened to their husband and mother should not have. They hired attorneys to help them get the answers they deserve.

"We want to find out how a preventative mycobacterium, how a preventable infection, was not prevented," said attorney Smith.

The Greenville Hospital System issued a statement on Wednesday.

It reads:

"Greenville Health System cannot discuss specifics since it's an on-going investigation and because of HIPPA. Just as GHS elected a transparent approach in communicating to the public and to our patients that a potential infection outbreak was being investigated, we anticipate continuing that transparency. But it would be inappropriate to discuss specifics of the investigation until the investigation is complete. We can say that all manufacturer recommendations regarding those pieces of equipment were followed. We believe in doing right by all of our patients, and we will continue to work with them moving forward. We personally reached out to each of these patients or families in order to share information regarding their conditions - either by face-to-face conversations or phone calls. Each patient was also given a card with the name and phone number for someone they could call to request additional information. Our staff continue to support and respond to patient needs."

The lawyers say if they don't have answers soon they plan to file suit in the next 30 days.

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