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NICU at P.G. Hospital Center re-opens after bacteria found

Scanning Electron Micrograph of Pseudomonas aeruginosa   (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo)

Scanning electron micrograph of Pseudomonas bacteria. Pseudomonas bacteria were found in the NICU at Prince George’s Hospital, which necessitated its closing. The center has now reopened.
(U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention photo)

Nearly two months after three babies in the neonatal intensive care unit at Prince George’s Hospital Center in Cheverly tested positive for potentially fatal bacteria, the unit is once again providing care to very ill newborns as of Tuesday morning, officials announced.

The Pseudomonas bacteria, which is found naturally in the environment and can cause illness and even death in patients with compromised immune systems, was discovered in early August after two babies died.

Officials said at the time there did not seem to be a link between the bacteria and the deaths.

Three more babies and one patient outside of the NICU tested positive for the bacteria, and nine babies were transferred to NICUs at other hospitals.

State authorities found “deficiencies related to policies and performance improvement processes” in the NICU, and the hospital now will have additional reporting requirements to state regulators, Dr. Sherry B. Perkins, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Dimensions Healthcare System, which operates the hospital, said in a statement.

The hospital has implemented several measures to better protect patients from the bacteria, which was found in water pipes, including having the NICU’s plumbing disinfected and treated by an independent company and adding additional water filtration; developing a new water-safety program that includes treatment of branch lines across the hospital; and providing additional training about infection control and neonatal care to hospital staff, the hospital announced Tuesday.

“In collaboration with regulatory authorities, we have completed work necessary to ensure that the NICU is safe to reopen,” Perkins said in the statement. “Our NICU will also remain at a Level II designation, which will allow us to continue to provide services to very ill newborns as the county’s only NICU.”

Prince George’s Hospital Center will also partner with neonatologists from the University of Maryland Medical System to provide additional clinical expertise to NICU patients, officials said.

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