Geisinger Medical Center in Danville announced a settlement agreement to bring an end to a civil lawsuit over a deadly infection that killed premature infants.
Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania recently agreed to settle a civil lawsuit that was filed against the hospital over allegations that actions by its staff contributed to infections that affected eight premature infants between July 1 and September 29, 2019. As part of the settlement, the hospital admitted fault and acknowledged “the process it was using to prepare donor breast milk led to the deadly outbreak in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.”
According to a lawsuit filed by one of the families, eight premature infants at the hospital tested positive for Pseudomonas bacterium after failing to properly prepare donor breast milk. An investigation was launched into the matter that discovered “Pseudomonas in a cylinder used to prepare donor breast milk, on a brush used to clean the cylinder, and in breast milk that had been given to an infant who died Sept. 30,” according to a health department report. For those who don’t know, “Pseudomonas bacteria are common and often harmless but can pose a health risk in fragile patients.”
Of the eight infants infected with Pseudomonas bacteria, two died and one suffered a serious brain injury. The families of those three infants are represented by attorney Matt Casey. According to him, the families “insisted that Geisinger take full legal acceptance of responsibility as a condition of the settlement.” When he took his client’s proposal to the hospital, it agreed. Casey said he had never before seen such an agreement “in a civil settlement in over two decades of medical malpractice work.” In a phone interview, he said:
“Geisinger has taken this extremely seriously in their dealings with me on behalf of my clients…They’ve taken unprecedented steps as a consequence of litigation to accept responsibility, not for simply the infections occurring, but for them being the legal cause of these two deaths and those injuries.”
When commenting on the recent settlement agreement, Dr. Jaewon Ryu, Geisinger’s president and CEO, issued the following written statement:
“The loss of a child is tragic, and this settlement can never replace these young children, however, we believe we have taken the steps necessary to prevent future infections and spare other families from this loss.”
Despite the lawsuit, the Pennsylvania hospital continues to operate a vast regional health network made up of 13 different hospitals. It employs about 32,000 people. At one point during the investigation into the Pseudomonas bacteria infections, the Pennsylvania Health Department “ordered Geisinger to correct several deficiencies, determining the hospital’s systemic failure to prevent infection in its most vulnerable patients constituted immediate jeopardy.”