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Prison Doctor Dies of Legionnaires’ Disease

A lawsuit filed on May 4, 2017 by the family of a doctor at SCI-Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania claims he died of Legionnaires’ disease contracted through the facility’s water system.

Dr. Joseph Mollura, 60, decided he liked his part-time job at SCI-Pittsburgh so much that he would make it his full-time occupation. He was hired by the prison’s medical contractor, Correct Care Solutions.

“People were people to him,” said his son. “If they were sick, he’d help them.”

According to the suit, the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PDOC) knew as early as May 2016 that there were high levels of Legionella bacteria in the cooling tower in the building where Dr. Mollura worked. Yet he “knew nothing about that,” said Lorraine DiNatale, his daughter. “They should have notified the medical staff when they found it in May.”

The family’s attorney, Neil Rosen, added that “Dr. Mollura was a physician who regularly came into contact daily with water and other areas that could have been contaminated. The [water] system over there [at the prison] was a bad system that put people in jeopardy.”

Dr. Mollura died on August 8, 2016 while on a trip to attend a college graduation ceremony in Orlando, Florida. It was not until September 1, 2016 that the PDOC issued a press release saying it had found “higher than acceptable levels of Legionella” in the cooling tower and medical building at SCI-Pittsburgh. PDOC officials began providing bottled water to staff and prisoners, and PDOC Secretary John Wetzel stated the department took “this matter seriously and are being proactive.”

“All of a sudden the state started bringing in bottled water,” DiNatale said. “It was too little too late.”

The lawsuit, filed in Allegheny County Common Pleas Court, remains pending. PLN has reported occasional outbreaks of Legionnaires’ disease in prisons and jails nationwide, mainly affecting prisoners. It is spread by inhaling Legionella bacteria. 


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