The University of Chicago Medical Center has agreed to pay $7 million to resolve a 2006 lawsuit filed by Attorney General Lisa Madigan alleging that the Chicago hospital violated Illinois licensing regulations that control the number of infants each unit can support. According to the Illinois lawsuit, University of Chicago routinely practiced “double-bunking” infants in its neonatal intensive care unit (NICU), i.e. placing two or more infants in beds designated for one infant only.
The Illinois Attorney General’s office was made aware of this double-bunking practice by two former University of Chicago Medical Center employees who traced the practice all the way back to 1997. Fortunately, as soon as the 2006 lawsuit was filed all doubling up of NICU patients ceased and has not resumed.
These bedding violations were against Illinois health laws and according to the attorney general placed some of the newborn infants at an increased risk for infections. However, a spokesperson from the University of Chicago Medical Center maintained that none of the NICU babies were at risk for any harm as a direct result of the over sized NICU and asserted that the hospital had only had its patients’ best interests in mind. The lawsuit itself did not include any claims of Illinois medical malpractice by the Chicago hospital’s NICU.
Regardless of the hospital’s intentions, the conditions of the settlement require the University of Chicago Medical Center to adhere to a strict enforcement of the Illinois licensing regulations and will no longer engage in double-bunking violations.
In addition, $5.1 million settlement will go towards funding health services for low income expectant mothers in several Chicago South Side neighborhood health clinics: Chicago Family Health Center, Jackson Park Hospital Foundation, Christian Community Health Center, Mercy Foundation (for use at both its hospital and clinic), Holy Cross Hospital, >Mile Square Health Center, Roseland Community Hospital, and St. Bernard Hospital. The idea behind this use of the settlement funds is that proactive prenatal care can help to reduce the number of babies requiring NICU treatment after their birth.
The remaining $1.9 million will be divided between the former nurses who first made the Attorney General’s office aware of the Chicago hospital’s violations and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
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