Wednesday, October 4, 2023
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Families Fear TB at Vegas Neonatal Unit

LAS VEGAS (CN) - A Las Vegas hospital allowed a tubercular mother into its neonatal intensive care unit, putting at risk more than 100 babies, visitors and hospital staff, eight people claim in a class action.

Lead plaintiff Lara Snyder et al. sued Summerlin Hospital Medical Center, Valley Health System, Universal Health Services and five hospital managers and administrators, in Clark County Court.

Plaintiffs include two patients, several family members who visited patients, and hospital staff members.

In July, Vanessa White, "a 25-year-old postpartum woman, was transferred from Summerlin Medical Center ('Summerlin') to a Los Angeles, California hospital, where she passed away," according to the complaint. "Ms. White was subsequently diagnosed as having been infected with tuberculosis. She was never tested for the disease while she was a patient at Summerlin."

The lawsuit continues: "White had been previously admitted in May 2013 to Summerlin where she delivered premature twins, Emma and Abigail. She had been ill to varying degrees prior to and after the birth of her twins, returning to Summerlin for treatment after delivering the twins. Her condition worsened, and eventually she was transferred to the Los Angeles hospital for a higher level of care. The autopsy revealed that the woman had been infected with tuberculosis. She was never tested for the disease before her death, and she was admitted to Summerlin with no precautions or quarantine measures whatsoever taken by Summerlin with regard to her tuberculosis.

"The twins, Emma and Abigail, were hospitalized at Summerlin's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit ('NICU') from birth until their deaths, also with no precautions or quarantine measures whatsoever taken by Summerlin with regard to their tuberculosis. Emma died in June 2013 without being tested for tuberculosis. Abigail was diagnosed with tuberculosis after California health officials reported White's infection to Nevada health officials, who in turn informed Summerlin. Despite receiving treatment, Abigail succumbed to the disease in August 2013, her death certificate listing tuberculosis as the cause of death.

"White repeatedly visited her babies in the Summerlin NICU for hours at a time during a period when she was suffering from undiagnosed active tuberculosis infection and was highly contagious, coming into direct contact with hospital employees and staff, patients, family members, vendors, contractors and visitors. Summerlin administrators and staff allowed her unfettered access to the hospital and those within it, did not require her to wear standard protective garb, such as masks, gowns or gloves, and did not screen or test her tuberculosis, despite the fact that she exhibited multiple symptoms that Summerlin administrators and staff knew or should have known called for appropriate testing and precautionary measures.

"Despite White's multiple symptoms, defendants failed to screen her, diagnose her, or take appropriate precautions to isolate or quarantine her. Moreover, defendants failed to issue any warnings or take any other measures to protect the safety of hospital staff, patients, family members, visitors, contractors, vendors and/or members of the general public.

The plaintiffs say Summerlin sent a letter to the parents of 140 babies who may have been affected, but only after the Southern Nevada Health District got word of the outbreak and a report was filed with the Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance.

More than 400 people have been tested and the testing is continuing, the plaintiffs say.

They seek class certification, medical monitoring, an injunction and damages and punitive damages for negligence, fraud, misrepresentation and concealment, and infliction of emotional distress. They are represented by Matthew Q. Callister.

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