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In early October eight infants, all confined to the Danville Medical Center Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), were infected with pseudomonas infection, a waterborne bacteria. Three of those infants died from their illnesses.

Related reading: Three infant deaths from bacteria in Geisinger NICU prompt investigation

Friday, Nov. 11, Geisinger Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Edward Hartle, M.D., provided an update to the pseudomonas infection situation in the NICU in a prepared statement.

“Geisinger has now received confirmation of the source of the pseudomonas bacteria exposure in eight premature infants; we have concluded that the exposure came from the process we were using to prepare donor breast milk,” said the statement

“Using DNA testing, in collaboration with the PA Department of Health, our infection control team has traced the bacteria to the equipment used in measuring donor breast milk, which helps premature infants with their nutritional needs.  

“Since September 30, we have changed this process, and have been using single-use equipment to measure and administer donor breast milk.  We have had no new cases of infants becoming ill from pseudomonas in the NICU since making this change.

“Pseudomonas bacteria is present throughout the environment, and only presents a health risk in extremely fragile patients.

“The Department of Health (DOH) visited our Danville campus on October 18 to review our practices and cited us for not having a written policy for cleaning equipment used to measure donor breast milk to reflect the changes made on September 30.  We immediately corrected the citation and drafted a new policy.

The statment went on to address the families affected by the bacteria infection, saying, “We would like to extend our sincere apologies to the families who have been affected by this incident. We know that the public holds us to the highest standards, and we will continue to strive to live up to those expectations as we have throughout our history, constantly improving on what we do and how we do it.”

Geisinger reinforced that donor breast milk at the facility is “safe, and we are certain the milk itself was not the cause of the exposure.” A mother’s own breast milk is also safe, said the statement.  “Breast milk is the best food for all infants, including premature infants. ” 

Geisinger Medical Center will remain on diversion for mothers delivering at less than 32 weeks and babies born prematurely at less than 32 weeks while they consult with DOH on the appropriate time to resume normal operations.

“Geisinger is committed to doing all that we can to support the infants and families affected and ask the community to join us in keeping them in our thoughts,” said Dr. Hartle.

A hotline has been established for any community members who may have questions regarding this announcement. The hotline numbers are 570-214-9087 and 570-214-9088.