Friday, November 29, 2013

Another Potential Crisis That Can Be Prevented

An Alabama woman has filed a $5-million lawsuit against a Kentucky motel where, she claims, she was infected with Legionnaire’s disease.

Why should you care? Read on and I’ll explain.

If you’re like me, you think Legionnaire’s Disease was a big story that surfaced in 1976 at an American Legion Convention in Philadelphia. If you’re old enough you may remember the story: more than 2,000 Legionnaires had attended their three-day convention at the Bellevue-Stafford Hotel.

Within a few days after the end of the annual meeting the first attendees began to die and scores became sick. When health experts finally diagnosed the problem almost six months later, 221 cases had been confirmed and 34 had died.

Needless to say, it was a big story for months. And with the short attention span of most Americans we soon filed that scare away in the depths of our memory banks and moved on to worry about other things.

That may have been a BIG MISTAKE.

Particularly if you own or operate a nursing home, healthcare facility (i.e. hospital, clinic, hospice), retirement community, fitness center, airport terminal, hotels/motels, or about any other facility where people, particularly elderly people or those with compromised immune systems gather, visit or work.

Recently a story crossed my desk about a nursing home in Alabama where at least 14 people had been diagnosed with the pneumonia-like illness and at least one person had died. The source of the disease was traced to air-borne moisture from a commercial air conditioner miles away.

Then I began to see reports from almost everywhere that I had earlier ignored or simply missed.

Sixteen residents and an employee of an Ohio retirement community were diagnosed and two died. Eighteen cases of Legionnaire’s Disease have been reported in Milwaukee, but so far the source has not been identified. And, at least 32 cases, probably significantly more, have been linked to a Veteran’s Administration Hospital in Pittsburgh.

Paul Edelstein, Director of the University of Pennsylvania Microbiology Lab was quoted in the Pittsburgh Tribune saying the true number of Legionnaire cases is more like 56,000 to 113,000 cases annually.

If that doesn’t get your attention, then this should: Attorney’s with the Pritzker Law Firm in Minneapolis, MN, recently won a $3-million settlement for a family with a Legionnaire’s wrongful death lawsuit.

I tell you all this to get your attention.

Remember, the Institute for Crisis Management’s annual crisis report has confirmed for nearly 20-years that on average nearly two-thirds of all business and organizational crises are preventable. The serious illness or death of guests or employees of your organization or neighbors can set of a crisis that many of you may not be able to overcome.

However, if you are aware of the risk, and take the necessary preventive measures you can spare your reputation, save millions of dollars and do right by your customers, clients, guests and employees.