Two workers at Mercy Hospital and Abbot Northwestern Hospital, both located in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area and owned by Allina Health, have been diagnosed with active tuberculosis (TB).
“I can confirm that one hospital worker at Mercy Hospital and one hospital worker at Abbott Northwestern Hospital were diagnosed with active TB,” Allina Health Vice President of Marketing and Communications David Kanihan tells Breitbart News.
On Friday, Allina Health released the following statement:
In late May, Allina Health began notifying 141 people who had been patients at either Abbott Northwestern Hospital or Mercy Hospital earlier this year that they may have been exposed to tuberculosis (TB). At each location, we learned that a worker who helped deliver care had TB. We carefully and thoroughly reviewed records to identify patients who had been closely enough in contact with these workers to have a potential exposure to TB. All of these patients have or will receive a telephone call and letter notifying them of the exposure and advising them to seek medical attention if they have experienced any symptoms of TB, or to schedule a free blood test for TB at one of our clinics. Allina Health will pay for all testing and any necessary follow up treatment related to the potential exposure
We are very confident that we have identified and are contacting all patients who may have been exposed. Any former patient of either hospital can be confident that if we do not contact you, you are not at risk. Patient safety is our top priority, and we are sorry for any concern this has caused.
“It would not be a proper characterization to say that they ‘may have transmitted the disease to as many as 141 patients with whom they came into contact’,” Allina Health’s Kanihan tells Breitbart News.
“We identified 141 patients who came into close enough contact with these workers so that there is any possibility at all of potential exposure to TB,” he adds.
“We are contacting each of these patients. At this point we have no evidence that any of these patients have actually contracted TB,” Kanihan says.
Allina Health did not clarify whether the hospital workers diagnosed with active TB were physicians, nurses, medical assistants, or other support staff.
Last year, a local newspaper reported that three employees of the Fridley Clinic, also owned by Allina Health and within ten miles of the two hospitals where the workers were diagnosed with active TB, received awards from Anoka County, the fourth most populous county in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, for their volunteer work medically screening refugees.
“Neither of these workers were involved with the refugee screening activity,” Allina Health’s Kanihan tells Breitbart News.
The Minnesota Department of Health has established tuberculosis infection control procedures for all health care facilities that operate in the state.
Allina Health confirmed these procedures were in place at both Mercy Hospital, located in suburban Coon Rapids, the largest city in Anoka County, and Abbott Northwestern Hospital, located in Minneapolis, the county seat of Hennepin County.
When asked if those procedures were properly followed, Allina Health’s Kanihan tells Breitbart News “We are evaluating that.”
Minnesota law requires that all active cases of TB must be immediately reported to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).
“We worked with MDH to confirm TB,” Kanihan tells Breitbart News.
“In fact, it is MDH that makes positive TB confirmation, so we were in close collaboration with them throughout,” he adds.
The open ended nature of the Allina Health statement released on Friday — “In late May, Allina Health began notifying 141 people who had been patients at either Abbott Northwestern Hospital or Mercy Hospital earlier this year that they may have been exposed to tuberculosis (TB). At each location, we learned that a worker who helped deliver care had TB.” (emphasis added) — raises more questions than it answers.
It is not clear when in 2016 the active TB cases in these two Allina Health workers were diagnosed, or when Allina Health first began communicating with the Minnesota Department of Health about these cases.
Neither Allina Health nor the Minnesota Department of Health clarified that timeline when asked by Breitbart News.
The Minnesota Department of Health reported that in 2014, 73 percent of the 147 active cases of TB in Minnesota were foreign born.
“Half of the foreign-born TB cases reported in Minnesota from 2010 through 2014 initially arrived in the U.S. as refugees, and another 27% arrived as immigrants,” the report adds.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area is a center of refugee resettlement.
“Of the 2,338 total [refugees resettled in Minnesota during 2015], almost 45 percent hailed from Somalia, and about 40 percent were Karen refugees from Myanmar, also known as Burma,” the Star Tribune reported.
“Roughly three-quarters of the newcomers settled in Hennepin and Ramsey counties [the two most populous counties in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area],” the Star Tribune added.
As Breitbart News reported previously, 22 percent of all refugees arriving in Minnesota in 2014 tested positive for latent TB. This compares to a four percent positive latent TB rate among the general population.
Twenty-six percent of the foreign born cases of active TB reported in Minnesota in 2015 were from patients born in Somalia.
“Cannot disclose due to patient privacy laws,” Allina Health’s Kanihan tells Breitbart News, when asked whether either or both of the two Allina Health workers diagnosed with active TB were American born or foreign born.
When reminded that the Minnesota Department of Health annually reports the breakdown between foreign born and American born active TB cases, Kanihan held firm.
“They may disclose some kind of aggregate breakdown, but that’s different from disclosing information about two specific people. Sorry, can’t help you with that one,” he tells Breitbart News.
The Minnesota Department of Health did not respond when Breitbart News posed the same question to them.