Report: Vegas hospital fell short on TB safeguards

AP News
Posted: Nov 04, 2013 3:34 PM

LAS VEGAS (AP) — A Las Vegas hospital wasn't taking proper precautions to contain infections when a mother who became ill with a fever visited one of her twin babies in the neonatal intensive care unit, state investigators said.

The report from the Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance comes after the mother and one of her babies died of tuberculosis, 26 people tested positive for the disease and health officials started testing for the illness among hundreds of babies and family members who spent time in the Summerlin Hospital Medical Center NICU this summer.

Representatives from the hospital's parent company, Valley Health System, didn't immediately respond to a request for comment Monday morning, but told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that they hand-delivered a plan of corrections on Friday.

According to the report, a doctor spoke "at length" with the parents at the sick baby's bedside May 31, even though the mother had been running a fever of 103 and didn't know why she was sick.

A nurse said months later that parents who were sick would have been discouraged from visiting or advised to wear a gown and mask. But patient logs from the day of the visit did not say whether the mother wore the protective gear when she visited, the report said.

It wasn't until after the 25-year-old mother died in California that doctors determined she had TB. One of her twin girls died before her and was never tested for the disease, while the second girl died of TB in August.

Testing of hospital staff and the woman's friends and family determined 26 people were infected, although most of them have the non-contagious form.

In October, health officials expanded the probe to include visitors and other young patients in the NICU. Authorities said it's unlikely that members of that group have contracted the disease, but officials haven't released data on the results of the latest round of tests.

"People are still being tested at this point," said Stephanie Bethel, spokeswoman for the Southern Nevada Health District. "Because TB testing sometimes takes multiple steps we are not releasing numbers until everything is finalized and we can ensure the information is accurate and complete."