NEWARK, NJ -- Newark Mayor Ras Baraka called for a change in leadership at University Hospital after two more infants died at University Hospital amid a state investigation of four bacterial infection cases.
The state Department of Health confirmed that two premature babies with the bacteria Acinetobacter baumannii died last week after receiving care at the hospital. A third baby with the same bacteria died at the end of September after being transferred to different hospital, the health department said.
The three babies that have died were part of four confirmed cases that the health department began investigating at the in October. The fourth infant was discharged at the end of last month. No new infections have been confirmed since last month, the health department said.
“The deaths of three premature infants with an Acinetobacter bacteria and the infection of a fourth, all cared for at University Hospital, are stark reminders that an overhaul of the quality of care and the leadership of the hospital is urgently needed,” Baraka said in a statement, adding that the city’s Department of Health and Community Wellness will work with the state to monitor the situation.
The DOH said the investigation that was launched in October is ongoing. The latest two infants got the infection six weeks ago, and due to other medical conditions from being born premature, the bacteria may not have been the cause of death.
The cases have been labeled as an "outbreak" by both the hospital and the DOH.
“We have worked diligently since the Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria was discovered in our neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) to control the outbreak, and there have been no new cases in the NICU since October. We continue to reinforce proper procedures and protocols with our team,” a University Hospital spokesperson said in a statement.
The bacterial infections are the latest controversy for the hospital. University Hospital received an "F" from Leapfrog’s hospital patient safety report in the Spring, but recently improved to a "D." In July, Gov. Phil Murphy appointed a state monitor to oversee University Hospital over quality of care concerns.
Baraka said more state and federal investment is needed at University Hospital so it could become a first-class teaching hospital. Baraka, in a statement, also called for the creation of a new board for the hospital with Newark representation. He also asked for a new president/CEO for the hospital that has a "history of sensitivity" to residents.
Baraka claimed the hospital hasn’t lived up to the Newark Agreement that was negotiated with the city in 1968, which promised a top-notch medical facility with community involvement.
“The hospital is central to providing health care to Newark residents, and I have been very concerned about its quality of care, its leadership’s failure to live up to the Newark Agreement negotiated when the hospital was created, their insensitivity to the opinions of residents, their attempt to reduce the number of pediatric beds without consulting myself or the Governor, and the failing grade they received on their level of care from the Leapfrog Group,” Baraka said in a statement.
The health department said representatives from its department were on-site yesterday to investigate the hospital's internal notification practices, governance and other factors that are in place to report deaths during an outbreak. The infection control program at the hospital was unaware of the deaths when contacted by the state, the health department said.
Major infection control deficiencies were found by the health department when it first began its inspection in October at University Hospital, the department previously said. A directed plan of correction was ordered by the DOH that required the hospital to hire an external infection prevention expert for the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit.