Health department denies claim in boy’s E. coli death
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Clark County Public Health is denying culpability in the E. coli-related death of a 4-year-old Hazel Dell boy.
The county recently responded in writing to a claim filed June 8 by Anthony and Bonnie Wilson, the parents of Ronan Wilson. Ronan died April 8, 2010, after contracting E. coli at the in-home day care, Fletch Family Daycare, he attended in Hazel Dell.
The Wilsons claimed negligent failures by the county health department were causes of Ronan’s death.
County officials reviewed a report Clark County Public Health staff prepared in September regarding the department’s response and conducted additional research before deciding to deny the claim, county spokeswoman Mary Keltz said.
“The prosecuting attorney’s office has reviewed the situation with both the risk management office and the health department, and jointly they came to the conclusion spelled out in that letter,” Keltz said.
In the July 28 letter, County Risk Manager Mark Wilson expressed condolences on behalf of the county, but wrote “with all due respect, we must deny this claim.”
Filing a claim is the first step in pursuing a case against a public agency. From here, the family can ask to settle with the county, drop the claim or file a lawsuit, Wilson said.
Anthony Wilson directed questions regarding the claim to Hoquiam attorney Paul Stritmatter, a personal injury and wrongful death attorney. Stritmatter’s office did not respond to The Columbian’s request for comment.
In the claim, Anthony and Bonnie Wilson argue the county health department was negligent and didn’t “reasonably alert the medical community, the general public or the public schools of the E. coli outbreak in a timely manner.”
The claim also says the county failed to prevent or control the outbreak from spreading, supervise the health and sanitation conditions of the Fletch Family Daycare, institute appropriate control measures after learning of the outbreak and close the day care center.
The county learned of the first case March 19, 2010. An initial investigation showed there were no other sick children at the day care center, county health officer Dr. Alan Melnick said last year. The county ordered the day care to close April 2, 2010, after test results showed other people had E. coli, even though they weren’t experiencing symptoms.
The county did not send out a provider alert because of the relatively small number of children involved, Melnick said. The county issues press releases when they have no other way of contacting potentially infected people.
Dr. Anthony Marfin, state epidemiologist for communicable diseases, sent the Clark County commissioners a letter last fall indicating the county acted within state guidelines.
A total of 23 children and four staff members were found to have either probable or confirmed cases of E. coli O157:H7. Four children, including Ronan, were hospitalized.