A new board chairwoman has been appointed and a state-ordered infectious disease specialist has been hired in response to a bacterial outbreak that occurred at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.

The outbreak occurred in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and as a result four infants contracted an infection caused by the Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria and one infant has died.

The premature infant that died had been in University Hospital’s NICU and contracted the bacteria and was transferred to another unnamed facility. The child passed away at the second hospital in late September.

However, the New Jersey Department of Health (DOH) said it only became aware of the outbreak at the hospital on October 1. Reportedly, the DOH was only alerted after an anonymous employee contacted the state health department to report the outbreak.

Acinetobacter baumannii bacterial infections will typically occur in intensive care units and healthcare settings that house very ill or immunocompromised patients. The bacteria is typically found in soil or water, and can cause pneumonia or serious blood or wound infections.

University Hospital is New Jersey’s only public hospital, and is also the largest provider of “charity care” for uninsured patients. The hospital has already been under significant scrutiny after it received a failing grade in April’s Leapfrog Safety report card.

In July, the DOH Health Commissioner named a monitor to assess University Hospital’s financial stability and evaluate its safety practices. Based on data taken from 2016 and 2017, the hospital scored below average in preventing four out of five common infections, and below average for preventing six out of seven surgical complications.

After being alerted to the outbreak and the death of the premature infant, the DOH ordered a state inspection of the facility. The inspection revealed issues with “hand hygiene, personal protective equipment, and cleanliness,” and that “recommended practices had not been implemented.”

The DOH created a “Directed Plan of Correction” for University Hospital, and required that a full-time infection control practitioner must be hired after their inspection found “major infection control deficiencies.”

This outbreak is unrelated to the 30 confirmed cases of adenovirus in pediatric residents at the Wanaque Center for Nursing and Rehabilitation in Haskell, New Jersey, where 10 children have died.

Stark & Stark’s Medical Malpractice team has handled many cases where patients have suffered due to an outbreak or infection at a hospital or other care facility. If you or a loved one were injured due to a facility’s error or neglect, it is strongly recommended that you seek experienced counsel immediately.