Meriter nurse alleges physicians took 'wait and watch' approach to unexplained NICU injuries

A nurse at Madison, Wis.-based UnityPoint Health-Meriter told CMS physicians "took a wait and watch position" after learning of unexplained injuries to babies in the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.

Parents of an infant in the NICU alerted the nurse to scratches on their child's wrist Feb. 3. The nurse discovered additional bruises and cuts on the baby's arms, took photos of the injuries and alerted managers the same day. Bruises were also found on a different baby a day prior.

However, Meriter did not address the injuries until Feb. 8, when clinicians diagnosed the baby photographed by the nurse with skull and arm fractures. The hospital suspended a nurse suspected of causing the injuries Feb. 8 and notified police of the injuries Feb. 9. The Madison Police Department is still investigating the injuries, and criminal charges have not been filed against the nurse, whose license was indefinitely revoked March 19.

CMS gave Meriter seven citations for failing to properly address the injuries, according to a federal report released Thursday and cited by the Wisconsin State Journal.

When federal investigators asked the NICU's medical director why no one filed a proper report about the photographed baby's injuries, the physician said, "that would be the nurse's job," according to the report.

CMS threatened to revoke Meriter's Medicare contract May 24 if it does not resolve the patient safety issues. The agency accepted the hospital's corrective plan to address the patient safety issues, but the revocation notice will stand until CMS officials accept the results of a follow-up inspection they conducted at Meriter last week, CMS spokesperson Elizabeth Schinderle told the Wisconsin State Journal.

"[W]e continue our own internal review and have implemented supplemental monitoring and security measures to enhance supervision in our newborn intensive care unit until the investigation is complete," Meriter said in an official statement emailed to Becker's in February. "We will continue to cooperate with all appropriate agencies and will do all we can to bring about a swift and appropriate resolution."

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