Complaint alleges Tennessee hospital ignored NICU safety, staffing concerns

An anonymous complaint alleging patient safety and staffing issues in the neonatal intensive care unit of Chattanooga, Tenn.-based Children's Hospital at Erlanger led to reviews by the state and a hospital accreditation agency, the Times Free Press reports.

The complaint alleged hospital administration ignored NICU staff concerns, including medication errors, missed feedings and infection control issues. The complaint attributed most of the problems to an overworked nursing staff.

The reviews found the allegations to be "unsubstantiated," but Erlanger cannot release the accreditation and state survey documents because they are protected by the Tennessee Patient Safety & Quality Improvement Act, hospital officials said.

The hospital's NICU nursing staff is currently employed by Erlanger, while Pediatrix Medical Group supplies eight neonatologists, 20 neonatal nurse practitioners and two administrative staff. However, Pediatrix's contract with Erlanger expires Dec. 3.

Don Mueller, CEO of Children's Hospital at Erlanger, said he "expected backlash" when the hospital did not renew the contract, and said complaint was likely filed out of spite.

"The basis for this letter, first of all, isn't true, and none of these allegations are true," Mr. Mueller said. "It hurts me to know that someone is acting out because they weren't chosen to stay as the vendor. They are choosing to create this big issue."

The staffing change hasn't affected care quality, he added.

A spokesperson for Pediatrix's parent company Mednax, said the company did not know about the complaint.

"We have clearly directed our employees not to disparage Erlanger or comment to anyone concerning their decision to end the relationship," the Mednax spokesperson said.

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