Report: Feds say Meriter failed to react properly to infant injuries

A key federal health agency says UnityPoint Health-Meriter should have done more to prevent further episodes of substandard newborn care after an infant was found bruised in the hospital’s newborn ICU, according to a report in the Wisconsin State Journal.

The first incident, which occurred in April of 2017, was followed by four other cases where babies were injured, including skull and arm fractures, and the same nurse had cared for each infant, the report says. The nurse, who has not been identified, was suspended on Feb. 8 of this year, and the Madison Police Department is investigating the matter.

Following an inspection in mid February, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services says the hospital should have done more to prevent the subsequent injuries, and notes that it failed to develop and implement an effective policy to prevent, investigate, and respond to allegations of suspected abuse.

In a letter dated Feb. 23, Maria Vergel De Dios, acting branch manager for the CMS office in Chicago, states the violations are serious enough to constitute an immediate threat to patient health safety.

As a result, the agency issued an “immediate jeopardy” violation, and the hospital’s Medicare contract could be terminated if the problem is not corrected. Medicare, the federal government’s health care program for seniors, represents a sizable portion of any hospital’s revenue stream.

The report says federal officials have accepted a hospital correction plan in which Meriter has assigned a security guard to the newborn unit and is putting cameras in all of the rooms. In addition, two people are now present for all patient care activities, and each nurse will have two patients instead of three.

To remove the threat of terminating the Medicare contract, officials also say Meriter must fix other unspecified problems.