MRSA outbreak — Hospital fired nurse for complaining, lawsuit says
CAMDEN — A nurse claims she was fired because she reported an alleged mishandling of supplies during a staph infection outbreak at a South Jersey hospital.
But hospital officials say she's a disgruntled employee looking for a payday.
NJ.com reports Catherine Tanksley-Bowe has filed a wrongful termination suit against Cooper University Hospital in Camden, claiming that state guidelines were not followed after a breakout in the neonatal intensive care unit last July.
In the suit, Tanksley-Bowe, who said she worked for the hospital for just one month before being let go, claims that she told the hospital about cross-contamination and supplies not being cleaned correctly, according to the report.
Hospital spokeswoman Wendy A. Marano in a statement called Bowe "a disgruntled nurse" terminated due to issues unrelated to those in the lawsuit. Marano would not expand on why Bowe was fired.
The New Jersey Dept. of Health confirmed there was a MRSA outbreak in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at the hospital that infected eight infants, including two who died.
"Given that children in the NICU can be medically fragile, the department does not know whether the deaths were attributed to MRSA," spokesman Donna Leusner wrote in a statement.
Fifteen infants were identified as carriers of the bacteria but didn’t have the illness, according to Leusner.
The Department of Health conducted an inspection on Aug. 4, 2016 and "several infection control deficiencies were found," she said. Leusner said no new cases had been reported since mid-September and Cooper had taken steps to prevent further outbreaks.
Those included separating babies that were carriers of bacteria from those who weren’t, modifying visitor policies, proper hand hygiene and cleaning of equipment.
"The department is still following up with the hospital and will have a call with them the first week of January," Leusner said.
According to the NJ.com report, Bowe alleges that in August, she told Cooper's chief of pediatrics the hospital should stop accepting babies into its NICU and notify nearby hospitals, but the hospital did neither. She was fired day later and not given a reason, she says.
"Bowe was aware of Cooper’s cooperation with NJDOH, but she was not in a position to know all of the facts about the MRSA situation, and that is clear because her lawsuit has numerous inaccuracies," Marano wrote, adding that she sought "hundreds of thousands of dollars" to drop the lawsuit and said her claims are without merit.
"Cooper will vigorously defend itself from this shameful attempt to profit from an unfortunate situation of NICU MRSA infections," Marano said.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com.
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