Three premature infants who died at a Danville, Pennsylvania, hospital became sickened with a bacterial infection linked to equipment used to measure and administer donor breast milk.
At least three infants died in the Geisinger Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit after being fed breast milk contaminated with Pseudomonas, a common waterborne bacterium that can be lethal to infants and others in fragile health.
Geisinger officials stressed that the donor breast milk itself was not the source of the germ. The hospital has since switched to pre-sterilized single-use equipment. Dr. Edward Hartle, Geisinger’s executive vice president and chief medical officer, said in a statement that there have been no new cases of Pseudomonas infection in the NICU since the change.
The infants who died were among eight sickened by Pseudomonas infection within an eight-week span.
“We would like to extend our sincere apologies to the families who have been affected by this incident,” Dr. Hartle said in a statement. “We know that the public holds us to the highest standards, and we will continue to strive to live up to those expectations as we have throughout our history, constantly improving on what we do and how we do it.”
Geisinger Medical Center is part of Geisinger Health System, a Danville, Pennsylvania-based hospital operator and one of the state’s largest health care networks.
The parents of one of the premature infants who died at Geisinger filed a lawsuit in October alleging that the hospital acted with “negligence and recklessness” in failing to protect their son after bacteria from the same source had already killed two other babies.
An attorney representing that family as well as the parents of the second baby who died told the Associated Press that his investigation found that there were other, earlier Pseudomonas infections in the Geisinger NICU, at least one of which resulted in death. However, he hasn’t yet determined if those infections stemmed from the breast milk equipment.
“A key aspect is to determine whether this was an ongoing problem there. We now have additional work to determine whether these infection control procedures were deficient for a period of time longer than Geisinger’s statement suggests,” the lawyer told the AP.