• Suit: Hospital mishandled infection that killed 3 babies

    By: MICHAEL RUBINKAM, Associated Press

    Updated:

    WILKES-BARRE, Pa. - The parents of a newborn who died in a Pennsylvania hospital's neonatal intensive care unit allege in a lawsuit that hospital officials failed to protect their son from a lethal bacterial infection that had already killed two other premature babies.

    Geisinger knew the neonatal intensive care unit of its flagship hospital in Danville was "dangerous, defective and contaminated" but continued filling its beds with premature infants and hid the obvious danger from parents, according to a wrongful death suit filed Thursday.

    Abel Cepeda was 5 days old when he died at the hospital Sept. 30. He was the third premature infant in two months to die from an infection caused by the Pseudomonas bacterium, and the eighth to be infected. Geisinger later began diverting very premature infants to other facilities as it works to identify the source of the outbreak.

    "What happened here is every parent's worst nightmare," said Matt Casey, who filed the suit on behalf of Abel's parents, Luis Cepeda and Zuleyka Rodriguez.

    Geisinger, which operates one of Pennsylvania's largest health networks, declined to answers questions about the suit. Spokesman Matt Van Stone said Geisinger expresses "deepest sympathies" to the affected families and has taken steps to "eradicate the bacteria as well as prevent additional cases."

    "We will continue our meticulous and comprehensive infection control practices at Geisinger Medical Center to reduce the risk of any infection in any infant," he said.

    At a news conference last week, Geisinger officials revealed they first became aware of an unusual spike in infections in early August. Seven of the eight infected babies were born at less than 26 weeks of gestation, and the eighth was born at less than 27 weeks', according to the hospital. A normal pregnancy lasts about 40 weeks.

    The lawsuit said the hospital "deliberately concealed" the crisis from parents, accusing Geisinger of putting its "reputational and financial interests" ahead of the health of its most fragile patients.

    Abel's parents were asleep in their Luzerne County home when they got a call from the hospital that their son was very ill. He died minutes before they arrived.

    "Without question, Abel Cepeda's exposure to Pseudomonas and resulting death would have been easily avoided with adherence to some of the most basic and fundamental standards of care," the suit said.

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