Lawsuit filed after 4 die from bacteria contracted during surgery

A class-action lawsuit claims four people died from the same surgical equipment used at local hospitals.

Carolinas HeathCare System sent warning letters to thousands of its patients last week.

Patients who had life-saving surgery in the last four years at CMC Main, CMC Mercy, CMC Northeast and CMC Pineville are at-risk for a deadly-bacteria.

The bacteria, known as mycobacterium chimaera, is already blamed for four deaths at Greenville Health System in South Carolina in July 2014.

That is according to this lawsuit filed back on Jan. 24.

It said the company that made heater-cooler machines used during surgery failed to give proper instructions to sterilize the machines to prevent the spread of the bacteria.

Attorney Randall Hood said that company named in the lawsuit, Sorin, who makes the equipment is guilty of other negligence.

"Sorin knew and actually shipped some of the devices knowing that they were contaminated with a particular micro-bacteria," Hood said.

Channel 9 contacted Sorin to try to get a response to the allegations.

According to Carolinas HealthCare System, the bacteria is very slow-growing. There's no way to test for it, diagnose it or even treat it.

Hood said it's tough for patients to live with the unknown.

"They feel like they're living on borrowed time because what if they get this deadly bacteria and they already had a serious health condition?" Hood said.

This is tough to hear, for those who've been to one of these hospitals.

"(They) pay all this money to go to a place like that. The last thing you want to worry about is unsanitary instruments," Jamey Vankirk said.

The lawsuit is only for people in South Carolina. Similar lawsuits have been filed in other states including North Carolina.

There is no word yet if they'll be combined or heard separately.

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