Summerlin Hospital Medical Center will update visitor policies and retrain staff about wearing proper protective gear after a state investigation, triggered by the death of a Las Vegas woman to tuberculosis, showed the facility didn’t take basic precautions to prevent the spread of infection.
The hospital’s written response to the Nevada Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance report was made public Thursday. The bureau, which licenses medical facilities, cited Summerlin for not documenting whether the woman was told to wear a gown and mask to block airborne diseases such as TB from spreading while visiting one of her newborn twins in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
The mother had a 103-degree fever May 31, according to the state, but the cause of her illness was undiagnosed at the time. Hospital logs show a doctor talked “at length” with her at the infant’s bedside. Hospital staff told investigators they would have advised a parent running a temperature not to visit or to at least wear a gown and mask.
As of Monday, people with symptoms of infectious disease such as runny nose, fever, coughing and lesions will be asked not visit the neonatal unit, according to Summerlin’s response. Staff also will be told to inform supervisors about visitors that show signs of illness.
State investigators also said they saw a nurse who wasn’t wearing gloves treat a patient with staph infection.
Nursing supervisors have reviewed infection control policies and in meetings all staff will be reminded about protective devices to wear and when they should be worn, the hospital said in response. That also will be done by Monday.
Staff that don’t wear proper protection will receive remedial training or face discipline, Summerlin said.
Summerlin’s submission states its actions are not an admission of rule violations; it is simply a response to regulatory requirements and intended to improve patient services. A spokeswoman for Valley Health System, which runs Summerlin Hospital, did not respond to a request for comment.
The Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance accepts Summerlin’s response, according to Martha Framsted, a spokeswoman for the State Health Division, which includes the investigating agency.
Vanessa White, 25, died July 1 at UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Her family transferred her there as her health deteriorated without a diagnosis at Summerlin. An autopsy said tuberculosis killed her. She had given birth May 11 to premature twin daughters, Abigail and Emma.
Emma lived only 21 days and died June 1 from respiratory failure and extreme prematurity. She was never tested for TB.
Diagnosis of TB requires reporting to public health officials. Since the mother died in California, state health officials there notified the Nevada tuberculosis office. Next the Southern Nevada Health District contacted Summerlin Hospital, which isolated baby Abigail. She died Aug. 1 from TB.
Lawyers for Ruben White, the father of the babies and Vanessa White’s husband, said earlier this month they will sue Summerlin Hospital and possibly medical personnel in connection with the deaths.
Attorney Robert Cottle said Thursday the hospital’s response shows little change in the way Summerlin will work.
“This plan of action appears, at first blush, to be form over substance,” Cottle said.
The mother’s death sparked TB testing of hundreds, including 140 infants who were in Summerlin’s NICU when she visited. None of those babies has tested positive for tuberculosis, most commonly spread through the air, including by coughing or speaking.
Tuberculosis is curable when detected early. The disease killed 84 people in Nevada in 2012.