Infection kills 3 infants at Geisinger neonatal ICU

DANVILLE – Geisinger officials are now figuring out what went wrong after three premature infants died as a result of a waterborne bacteria that was recently discovered in the neonatal ICU. Doctors say the deaths may have resulted from the infection complicating their already vulnerable state, born at under 27 weeks. Out of eight total infants affected, seven were under 26 weeks. Geisinger says it expresses its deepest sympathies and will provide full support to all families affected.


Mark Shelly, Director of Infection Prevention and Control, said during a conference call the hospital is now investigating where the bacteria is coming from and they’ve never seen this before, “The information that we have so far is that it’s some place outside of the neonatal intensive care unit. We’ve made sure we’ve increased the coronation of the water, we’ve also look at our processes and changed some of our processes in ways where we thought it could have possibly gone wrong there.”


Fortunately, Geisinger says four infants have been successfully treated and are doing well. One is still receiving treatment but is responding positively. Geisinger Chair of Pediatrics Frank Maffei was asked if doctors knew what was happening before the three other babies died, “If there is a rapid deterioration, sometimes you don’t know until after the culture has grown, and sometimes that might be 24 or 48 hours after the child has succumbed to an infectious disease. Often times, we know fairly quickly.”


But Maffei did say doctors began noticing infections in early August.  Geisinger says out of caution, the obstetrics and neonatal teams are temporarily diverting mothers likely to deliver prematurely before 32 weeks gestation to other Pennsylvania institutions with appropriate NICU capabilities. Infants born at less than 32 weeks gestation are also being sent to other hospitals.


Chief Medical Officer Rosemary Leeming says any expecting moms or babies past 32 weeks have nothing to worry about, “No mom who is delivering a child over that gestational age should have any concern about delivering here at Geisinger. We’re really only diverting those babies who are really over two months premature.”

Geisinger says a hotline has been established for anyone with questions. They are 570-214-9087 and 570-214-9088.

DANVILLE, Pa. – Geisinger Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Edward Hartle, M.D., today issued the following statement regarding the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Geisinger Medical Center (GMC) in Danville:

“The neonatal intensive care unit at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville recently experienced an increase in cases of pseudomonas infection, a waterborne bacteria, among premature infants. While HIPPA regulations limit what we can disclose about individual cases, all were confined to the GMC NICU. In total, eight infants confined specifically to the Geisinger Medical Center NICU were treated for a pseudomonas infection. Four of these infants have been successfully treated and are doing well; one of these infants continues to receive antibiotic treatment for the infection and is responding positively; and, sadly, the other three infants have passed away, which may have been a result of the infection complicating their already vulnerable state due to extreme prematurity.  We express our deepest sympathies and provide our full support to the families and loved ones who have been affected.

We continue to work closely with the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate and ensure that proactive measures already taken have eradicated the bacteria as well as prevent any additional cases.

Out of an abundance of caution, the obstetrics and neonatal teams at Geisinger Medical Center are temporarily diverting mothers likely to deliver prematurely before 32 weeks gestation, and infants born at less than 32 weeks gestation, to other regional institutions in Pennsylvania with appropriate NICU capabilities. We will continue our meticulous and comprehensive infection control practices at GMC 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.”

A hotline has been established for any community members who may have questions regarding this announcement. The hotline numbers are 570-214-9087 and 570-214-9088.

Additional comment will be available from Rosemary Leeming, M.D., chief medical officer at Geisinger Medical Center, Frank Maffei, MD, chair of pediatrics, and Mark Shelly, M.D., director of infection prevention and control at 1 p.m. at the Henry Hood Conference Center on the campus of Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

WKOK will have an update on this story.

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