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State Investigating Following Infant Death at Cooley Dickinson

Cooley Dickinson Hospital

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WGGB) — A state review is underway after a infant died at the Childbirth Center at Cooley Dickinson Hospital.

Christina Trinchero, spokesperson for the Northampon-based hospital, says that a memo was sent out to hospital staff Thursday.

In the three page memo, written by acting President Matthew Pitoniak and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Novotny, the hospital says that an “event” resulted in the “tragic death of an infant.”

Pitoniak and Novotny go on to say that it’s believed that communication issues may have impacted the “decision-making process in this case.”

“One factor that we have identified at this point involves fragmented communication among the various providers,” the memo says.

The circumstances surrounding the incident was not disclosed, nor was when the event took place.

Pitoniak and Novotny add that their “hearts go out to the parents of the baby who died and other family members as they grieve and try to come to grips with their loss” and that they have reached out the family “to apologize for their loss and to express our deepest sympathies.”

Hospital officials say they are fully cooperating with the state’s Department of Public Health.  Reports have been submitted to the agency for their review.

The D.P.H. also recently visited the hospital to perform a multi-day review.

While Cooley Dickinson awaits word from the state, as part of their internal reviews of the incident, Pitoniak and Novotny explain that they found “areas of improvement” as it relates to C-Section, vaginal births following Cesarean, forceps deliveries, and other situations that involve intervention.

The hospital adds that it appears the Childbirth Center was “properly staffed” at the time of the incident.

The memo goes on to say that, “In addition to learning that communication among the providers involved in the stillbirth could have been better, we also recognize that, even though certain complications of pregnancy may be extremely rare, staff members must be attuned to unusual symptoms and indicators that signal uncommon events and be fully prepared to respond.”

Pitoniak and Novotny note that several procedures have been “strengthened” as part of their internal review.

Some of those measures, according to the memo, include:

  • Twice-daily patient safety consultations involving every team member to review the care of all current obstetric patients to identify as early as possible any potential complication or risk
  • An interruptive “time-out” process, through which any caregiver with a concern can call for an additional, immediate safety consultation, and if necessary, further involve providers on call and/or seek out medical staff and administrative leadership
  • A revised provider call schedule to improve communication when caregivers transition care of a patient from setting to setting or shift to shift
  • Making sure that the Childbirth Center has immediate access to the electronic medical records from the obstetric offices
  • Enhanced protocols to intensify the ability to identify risk factors in patients in our obstetric practices and strengthen our review of the care of women with such risk factors
  • Senior leaders rounding throughout the hospital to identify any safety risks or concerns by regularly and directly interacting with staff

The hospital expects to receive a report from the DPH soon.

Cooley Dickinson is also collaborating with experts from Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Keene, N.H. and Mass. General Hospital in Boston to develop additional quality and safety plans.


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