Hospital newborn units are supposed to be havens of safety, where tired parents often send their little ones so they can catch a few hours of sleep here and there shortly after the birth, or where infants receive their first round of vaccinations and other medicines. That’s why a recent story of infants allegedly being harmed in a newborn unit has so many people upset. According to a federal report issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, “five infants suffered serious injuries including a fractured skull, rib, and arm in the newborn unit of a Wisconsin hospital and the nurse who cared for them has been suspended.”
The shocking report was put together shortly after the agency inspected UnityPoint Health-Meriter hospital, a Madison hospital, and in the report, the agency noted that the hospital “didn’t respond to the suspected abuse until early last month, when staff noticed two babies with bruises.” How long did the abuse go on, though? Well, according to the investigation, two other cases occurred last year, and another was discovered from January of this year.
When the abuse was discovered, the federal agency was so upset about the way the hospital allowed incidents to fall through the cracks without repercussions for the nurse that it “threatened to cancel its Medicare contract with Meriter. In a letter sent to the hospital on February 23, the agency said: “the situation is so serious that it constitutes an immediate threat to patient health safety.”
But what happened, exactly? What kind of abuse did the infants endure? For starters, the inspection report alleges the “staff in the 42-bed unit noticed bruising on the arm of an infant on February 2.” At the time, a doctor “thought it might be from the baby clutching wires or an IV device.” However, the very next day another baby had bruises on its arm and wrist. In that case, though, a “doctor thought it might be from a tightly wrapped blanket.” Unfortunately, signs of abuse continued to pop up in the following days. According to the report, “on February 4, the “staff saw bruising on the second baby’s face and three days after that they discovered a lump on the baby’s head.” The same baby underwent a CT scan to try and determine what was going on, and it was discovered that the infant had “skull and arm fractures.” As a result, the nurse, whose name is being kept from the public, was suspended, and the Madison Police Department launched its own investigation.
So far Meriter has cooperated with the investigation and authorities. According to hospital spokeswoman Jessika Kasten, Meriter has “implemented new safety measures,” including adding a “security guard to the newborn unit and cameras in all rooms.” Additionally, “each nurse will now care for two patients instead of three in the unit, which handles babies in intensive care.”