A hospital should be a place where people can go to get healthy, not a place that could cause health problems due to negligence. As many have become aware after high profile lawsuits and stories from around the country, an elevated amount of lead in drinking water can have severe and long-lasting consequences. A recent article discussed the high level of lead found in tap water at a New Mexico hospital, and given the dangers of exposure to lead, this could lead to medical malpractice suits for the hospital if complications arise.
According to water tests at Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center, hazardous levels of lead have shown up since 2011. These levels have greatly exceeded accepted federal levels in some instances, as state and federal records show. In fact, there have been repeated violations in the same 10 locations.
Hospital officials say that the water is safe, and that they are fixing the problem. They also say that they have alerted the public, but some long-time health care workers at the hospital and union officials question the veracity of that claim. They say that there were fliers put up throughout the hospital that indicated only that samples were taken, and offered tips to protect from exposure. The fliers apparently said nothing about the text results and did not indicate that there were elevated or unsafe levels of lead found.
Approximately 1,200 patients, employees and visitors are served at the hospital per year. Much of the hospital’s water system dates back to the 1970s, when lead was still commonly used; this may be the cause of the problem. However, the hospital has not let the public know exactly how it is solving the problem, and there does not appear to be a discussion of a water system overhaul.
According to an EPA spokesperson, there is “no safe level of lead exposure.” The national goal for water systems is 0. Some of the samples at the hospital were 730, 87 and 34 ppb.
Once ingested, lead does not leave the body and accumulates over time. It has been linked to many health problems, like delayed growth, learning and behavior problems and anemia. Patients and families who suspect health problems caused by lead exposure could benefit from the advice of a New Mexico attorney who is well-versed in medical malpractice law.