A bacterial outbreak at a hospital in Newark, New Jersey has now claimed the lives of three babies who received care in the University Hospital neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).
The hospital’s infection control program was reportedly kept in the dark about the most recent deaths. However, the New Jersey Health Department became aware, subsequently sending its own inspection team to investigate. According to an announcement from state health department officials, the investigation will delve into the Newark hospital’s governance, internal notification policies, and “other factors” related to reporting patient deaths when an outbreak occurs.
Infant Infections in Newark Hospital
Since September, four babies have contracted infections while being cared for at the Newark hospital. Three of the four infants, all of whom were born premature, have died. Two of the babies who died had been transferred to other hospitals before their passing. The fourth child was discharged last month. All of the infants were affected by a hospital-acquired infection known as Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria. The two latest infant deaths occurred approximately six weeks after the victims were initially infected.
While the underlying cause of death in these cases has yet to be determined, each child was exposed to the dangerous bacteria in the neonatal intensive care unit. According to the health department, determining a direct cause of death is complicated by the fact that each baby was premature and suffering from other medical conditions at the time.
What is Acinetobacter Bacteria?
The Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria is a dangerous bacterium that usually occurs in healthcare facilities. The bacteria can be contracted through direct contact with the skin of another infected person or contaminated surfaces, tools, and other items. Acinetobacter baumannii is the most common strain of Acinetobacter bacteria in the United States. It is often called a “superbug” because it is resistant to many of the antibiotics typically used to cure infection.
Acinetobacter bacteria can lead to a host of serious diseases and medical conditions, including:
- Sepsis (blood infection)
- Surgical site infections
- Necrotizing fasciitis (flesh-eating bacterial infection); and
- Urinary tract infections (UTI)
While it doesn’t typically affect people with healthy immune systems, individuals with depressed immune systems are particularly vulnerable.
Infection Control & Hospital Negligence
In this specific situation, the hospital has already been called out as having serious problems with their sanitization and infection-prevention policies. According to Shereef Elnahal, the Health Commissioner, an inspection revealed “major infection control deficiencies” involving “hand hygiene, personal protective equipment and cleanliness.” The state then appointed an infection control practitioner, tasked with overseeing a plan to correct these significant and potentially dangerous issues.
And University Hospital in Newark is not alone. Several other medical facilities have experienced similar outbreaks. In fact, 11 children have died at the Wanaque Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and 13 pediatric patients have contracted infections at the Voorhees Pediatric Center.
One of the most important things that hospitals and healthcare facilities must do to prevent the spread of bacteria is to implement and abide by stringent safety protocols, including extensive sanitization practices, hand-washing, and maintaining environmental cleanliness throughout. Failure to do so may constitute medical malpractice.
My Child was Infected at a Hospital in New Jersey, What Should I do?
If your infant or child acquired an infection while receiving treatment at a hospital, urgent care center, or other healthcare facility in New Jersey, it is important to obtain knowledgeable legal counsel. If the hospital failed to uphold the proper standard of care in its infection control and prevention policies, you may have grounds to pursue compensation for the suffering your child was caused. For additional information and to speak with an attorney who can advise you of your rights, call 866-708-8617 today or request a free case evaluation.