Madison hospital cited for 7 'deficiencies' in federal agency report following NICU abuse

MADISON, Wis. (WISC) -- A report released Wednesday by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows UnityPoint-Meriter hospital was issued a "statement of deficiencies" for seven issues in hospital operations and patient care following an investigation into unexplained injuries to babies in their newborn intensive care unit.

An initial complaint investigation sparked a finding of "immediate jeopardy" at the hospital, after federal officials found the hospital failed to protect patients and prevent suspected abuse to five babies housed in the NICU beginning in April of 2017.

A full report of deficiencies was released Wednesday because CMS officials say they received and have approved a "plan of correction" from UnityPoint-Meriter. The report shows the finding of immediate jeopardy was removed March 1, according to the documents.

The additional deficiencies related to the NICU investigation not previously listed in federal documents include:

  • a violation of the patient right for care in a safe setting
  • not properly tracking or documenting patient injuries of unknown origin
  • a violation of the requirement of the hospital to have a "quality assessment and performance improvement program"
  • a failure of the hospital medical staff and administration to "take responsibility for the quality of care"
  • a failure to follow administrative responsibilities for patient care

The previous report found the facility in violation of patient rights and the ability of patients to be free from abuse.

The plan of correction offered by Meriter and approved by CMS, according to the report, says the hospital is "committed to further developing mechanisms to promptly identify abuse and follow all legal requirements for investigating and reporting such abuse including protection of patients."

That system, documents show, aims to "reliably identify suspicious injuries" and says the hospital is now erring on the side of "over-identifying abuse."

CMS officials say they performed an unannounced survey to follow-up on the plan of correction March 22, and a report for that survey is in progress.

In response to the report's release, a spokeswoman for UnityPoint-Meriter said the hospital is continuing to work with agencies involved in the review of the NICU.

"The follow-up survey is an anticipated part of the review process, and we are working with our regulators to address any concerns identified in the survey," said spokeswoman Jessika Kasten. "We remain keenly focused on nurturing and protecting the health of all our patients and delivering the high-quality care we have provided to our community for the last 120 years."

Meriter suspended one employee Feb 8. related to the investigation and increased security. 

The Madison Police Department has said their investigation into the alleged abuse at the hospital is ongoing.

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