Baby receiving treatment as staff seeks clues

Janet Weis Children’s Hospital in Danville.

An attorney filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Geisinger on Thursday in connection with the death of one of three infants who died following a Pseudomonas bacteria outbreak at the medical center.

Abel David Cepeda was born prematurely at the hospital on Sept. 24 and died in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) six days later. He was the last of three newborn infants to die at the hospital following the outbreak, according to attorney Matt Casey, of Ross Feller Casey, Philadelphia, who was hired by the infant's parents, Zuleyka Rodriguez and Luis David Cepeda, of Hazle Township.

Five other infants were sickened at the hospital during the outbreak. Four have recovered and one is still being treated, Casey said.

Abel was the eighth newborn to be infected in the hospital's NICU since July, the lawsuit contends.

“The tragic story set forth in today’s filing is a parent’s worst nightmare come to life. The health system to which baby Abel’s parents entrusted him failed to tell them that the health system knew, for approximately two months, of a dangerous, deadly bacteria in the very NICU where Abel was taking his first breaths. A dangerous, deadly bacteria that had already claimed the lives of two other babies and sickened several others,” said Casey.

Among the allegations cited in the lawsuit is that Geisinger officials were aware of a trend of infections in early August but continued to accept premature infants into the NICU for more than a month and did not warn families of the potentially deadly outbreak.

Dr. Rosemary Leeming, Geisinger’s chief medical officer, said at an Oct. 7 news conference that Geisinger would divert pregnant women likely to deliver in under 32 weeks gestation to other facilities. Families of infants currently in the unit have the option of transferring their children to a facility in the Geisinger system or to an outside facility, hospital officials said.

Three pregnant women expected to deliver before 32 weeks recently were diverted to Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center from Geisinger, Penn State Health spokesman Scott Gilbert confirmed.

"Three expectant mothers are in the care of Milton S. Hershey Medical Center as a result of that situation," Gilbert said.

He said Penn State Health also told Geisinger it would provide other assistance to Geisinger, if needed.

Geisinger media relations director Matt Van Stone said hospital officials are working closely with state and federal officials to identify the problem.

“We continue to express our deepest sympathies and provide our full support to the families and loved ones who have been affected," he said. "Geisinger has worked closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) since identifying a pattern of related Pseudomonas infections in September. The DOH and CDC have fully supported the immediate measures we have taken that are above and beyond their best practice guidelines to eradicate the bacteria as well as prevent additional cases. There have been no new cases of Pseudomonas infections since instituting these measures. We have been and will continue to be proactive in communicating with our patients and the communities we serve."

Van Stone said the hospital "will continue our meticulous and comprehensive infection control practices at Geisinger Medical Center to reduce the risk of any infection in any infant, and we remain committed to providing the highest level of family-centered neonatal care for our families and babies."

Daily Item reporter Joe Sylvester contributed to this report.

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