It seems almost impossible to believe that medical professionals in this day and age would forget to take basic sanitary measures — like wearing gloves — to protect their newborn patients. Unfortunately, it happens — and it happened again recently at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
Twenty-three premature newborns at the hospital developed a viral infection when medical professionals responsible for their care didn’t follow safety protocols. Some of the problems included a failure to clean equipment between each use and the failure to wear gloves when handling the delicate preemies. The children contracted the viral infection due to a microbe that contaminated the ophthalmoscope used to examine them.
The infected babies were all being treated in the hospital’s neonatal unit, where infants go when they are too premature and weak to go home with their parents immediately after birth. Two infants who contracted the virus eventually died, although it is uncertain how the virus may have led to at least one of the deaths. Premature infants can suffer from numerous health problems and be exceptionally fragile.
Perhaps that’s what makes the fact that basic safety measures were overlooked so shocking in a case like this. As medical professionals, they were in a position to best understand how damaging any viral infection might be to their charges. In this instance, the adenovirus involved led to 11 eye infections and five cases of pneumonia among the infants — although all 23 children suffered some form of respiratory problems as a result of their exposure. In addition, six employees and three other patients also were infected.
Two wrongful death claims have been filed in this case already, and it’s likely that more injury claims will follow. For its part, the hospital claims that it began a “proactive response” once it learned of the viral outbreak. It claims that it has instituted a variety of enhanced safety measures to prevent the situation from happening again.
Cases like this are a stark reminder that medical professionals — even though they should know better — often disregard some of the most basic safety steps when they care for their patients. If that happens, it’s important to hold them responsible for the injuries and wrongful deaths that occur as a result.