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Hospital in mold case puts focus on cancer's toll

TAMPA — A day after an attorney claimed that mold at St. Joseph's Hospital killed three young cancer patients, the hospital released a statement that emphasized its safety measures and highlighted the deadliness of cancer.

"Cancer kills more children than any other disease," the statement said. "Sometimes, despite all the measures we have in place, all the medical expertise we provide, and all the personal care we deliver, patients do not survive.

"It is devastating to lose a child at any time, and perhaps especially so after a long battle with cancer. Our team cares deeply for the children we serve and grieves for those whose lives we cannot save."

The hospital's statement did not address attorney Steve Yerrid's contention that mold released during the renovation of the ground floor of its children's oncology center led to fatal infections in three children who died within a month of one another last year.

Yerrid sued the hospital for negligence Tuesday on behalf of the three children's families.

Hospital spokeswoman Lisa Patterson said privacy laws prevented her from commenting specifically on the children's cases. But she said patients with immune systems weakened by cancer were known to be more susceptible to infection from a variety of causes.

The statement addressed the hospital's commitment to patient safety, including taking necessary measures to reduce infections throughout the facility.

Those measures include using barriers around construction areas, filtering the air and monitoring ventilation systems to minimize airborne contaminants. The hospital conducts regular preventative maintenance rounds and educates families about the importance of infection control measures, the statement said.

Yerrid said the families blame the hospital, not the treating physicians and nurses, for failing to follow established protocol during the construction.

"It is unfortunately true that cancer kills," he said. "It does not need helpers."

Colleen Jenkins can be reached at cjenkins@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3337.

Hospital in mold case puts focus on cancer's toll 02/04/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 4, 2009 7:39pm]
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