The process that Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania used to prepare donor breast milk was the cause of the deadly bacterial infections that caused the deaths of three babies in August and September 2019, and sickened five other babies in its NICU since July 2019. Of the five surviving babies who got sick, one has been discharged and the other four remain hospitalized.
On November 8, 2019, Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania issued the following statement:
“Geisinger has now received confirmation of the source of the pseudomonas bacteria exposure in eight premature infants; we have concluded that the exposure came from the process we were using to prepare donor breast milk.
Using DNA testing, in collaboration with the PA Department of Health, our infection control team has traced the bacteria to the equipment used in measuring donor breast milk, which helps premature infants with their nutritional needs. Since September 30, we have changed this process, and have been using single-use equipment to measure and administer donor breast milk. We have had no new cases of infants becoming ill from pseudomonas in the NICU since making this change.
Pseudomonas bacteria is present throughout the environment, and only presents a health risk in extremely fragile patients.
The Department of Health (DOH) visited our Danville campus on October 18 to review our practices and cited us for not having a written policy for cleaning equipment used to measure donor breast milk to reflect the changes made on September 30. We immediately corrected the citation and drafted a new policy.
We would like to extend our sincere apologies to the families who have been affected by this incident. We know that the public holds us to the highest standards, and we will continue to strive to live up to those expectations as we have throughout our history, constantly improving on what we do and how we do it.
It is important to emphasize that the donor breast milk at Geisinger is safe and we are certain the milk itself was not the cause of the exposure. Additionally, mothers should have no concerns about the safety of their own breast milk for their babies. Breast milk is the best food for all infants, including premature infants.
Geisinger Medical Center will remain on diversion for mothers delivering at less than 32 weeks and babies born prematurely at less than 32 weeks while we consult with DOH on the appropriate time to resume normal operations.
Geisinger is committed to doing all that we can to support the infants and families affected and ask the community to join us in keeping them in our thoughts.”
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