Abuse first reported in Meriter NICU in April 2017

Suspicions of abuse in UnityPoint Health-Meriter's neo-natal intensive care unit go back 11 months, however the hospital didn't address the concerns until February of this year, according to a federal agency's investigation.

The Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services notified Meriter on Feb. 23, 2018 that based on a survey by the Wisconsin Department of Health, Divison of Quality Assurance, the hospital was not in compliance and risked termination from the Medicare program.

Meriter now has the opportunity to submit a plan of correction to remain in compliance.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services report, the facility failed to respond to allegations of abuse related to injuries of an unknown origin and protect five of six patients in the NICU when the first case was report on April 12, 2017.

The "immediate jeopardy" began on April 12, 2017 when the facility failed to protect and thoroughly investigate the first report of an injury of unknown origin for a patient, placing all patients in the Newborn Intensive Care Unit at risk for serious harm or injury.

There was no further action until Feb. 2, 2018, when a nurse identified bruising on the arm of a patient of an unknown origin according to the report. The following day, a Saturday, a second patient was discovered with unexplained bruising. At the time, a nurse sent an email to a manager regarding concerns over the bruising of the two patients, and believed the concerns would be addressed the following Monday.

About a week later, on Feb. 9, a physician recalled a third patient with unexplained bruising in the past. After a review of photographs of the injuries, Madison police were notified. 

A fourth patient was also identified Feb. 9.

As part of the hospital investigation, a fifth patient's parents were notified. The patient had scattered bruising on lower extremities during the hospital stay on Jan. 20, 2018 that staff believed to be related to birth.

The parents informed hospital staff they were uncomfortable with suspected nurse who was the the primary caregiver on the night shift of Jan. 23-24, 2018.

Due to these concerns, a physician consulted a child abuse expert on Feb. 12, 2018 who recommended skeletal survey and CT.

The results revealed multiple fractures including rib and arm fractures.

Madison police announced Feb.9, 2018 the department's special victim's unit had begun its own investigation following a report of several unexplained injuries to babies at Meriter's NICU.

On Feb. 13, upon learning of the incident from the Madison Police Department, the Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Services began an inquiry to determine if the subject of the police investigation was a person that held a state license, according to another email.

Also, on Feb. 16, the Office of Caregiver Quality received a report containing an allegation of caregiver misconduct by a credentialed health care provider that also was forwarded to DSPS.

The employee has since been removed from the hospital during the investigation, according to Meriter spokesperson Leah Huibregtse. 

Among the provisions in the corrective plan of action submitted by Meriter, the hospital has initiated safety plan that will remain in place until at least all NICU providers and NICU staff, including volunteers, have received training, and video monitoring is installed and activated.

Also a security officer will be assigned to the NICU front entrance and rounding on the unit 24/7 until at least video monitoring cameras in NICU rooms are installed and activated.

At the time police announced the investigation, Meriter issued the following statement.

Nurturing and protecting the health of our patients is our highest priority, so we were heartbroken to recently learn of patient safety concerns regarding some of our youngest patients.

We have notified law enforcement and local authorities regarding the matter and are actively cooperating with their ongoing investigations. We are also updating the families involved in this matter.As the police investigation continues, we continue our own internal review and have implemented supplemental monitoring and security measures to enhance supervision in our Newborn Intensive Care Unit until the investigation is complete. We will continue to cooperate with all appropriate agencies and will do all we can to bring about a swift and appropriate resolution.Our care team is keenly focused on supporting our patients and their families. Our determination to provide the best and safest care could not be stronger.

For more go to WKOW: http://www.wkow.com/story/37681454/2018/03/08/police-investigating-unexplained-injuries-at-meriters-newborn-intensive-care-unit

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