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Lawyer Searches for Infection Cases

October 6,2006 09:10 PM

Jim Mendoza - jmendoza@kgmb9.com

News PhotoThink of MRSA as a staph infection on steroids. It's highly resistant to antibiotics. The bacteria goes crazy if it breaks the skin. It can even kill.

"Of the five that had MRSA, two died and three are severely brain damaged," attorney Rick Fried said.

He claims MRSA - methicillin resistant staphyloccus aureus - infected five infants while they were at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in the spring of 2004.

"It appears that there was a problem and maybe a continuing problem at Kapiolani," Fried said.

The babies were all in the neonatal intensive care unit, either born prematurely or otherwise "medically fragile."

"I can't talk about any of these individual cases except to say that all the babies in our unit are very fragile and all the things we do to keep them alive have some risk," Dr. Marian Melish said.

She spearheads Kapiolani's infectious disease control efforts.

Melish said Kapiolani has always been strict on infection control, especially in the neonatal unit. Hands are washed before and after treating patients. There is liberal use of alcohol based hand gels and every inch of equipment is disinfected several times a shift. The hospital says it's been that way for years - including in 2004.

"We've taken care of that so that every baby has their own stethoscope so we're not passing them from one baby to another," said neonatal director Dr. Charles Neal.

Fried's taken out a newspaper ad. He's looking for other families who had children at Kapiolani around the time his clients' infants did and who may have gotten MRSA.

He said the victims' parents want answers.

So far Fried has only filed a medical claim for one of the deaths. More could follow. The hospital doesn't want parents to panic.

"Every large neonatal unit has had outbreaks of infection," she said. "I think that parents should know that our unit is as safe as we can make it."