Seattle Children's has 'something to prove' after infant deaths



Posted on November 3, 2010 at 11:05 PM

Updated Wednesday, Nov 3 at 11:11 PM

SEATTLE – For the first time since it happened, the head of Seattle Children's Hospital is opening up about the deaths of two children.

"We know that we have some explaining to do. We know that we have something to prove," said Patrick Hagan, Children's President and COO.

Three cases at Seattle Children's are under review by Washington state. In two of them, infants died.

Clinical nurse specialist Elaine Beardsley says the tragedies of the past few months have weighed heavily on the entire staff at Children's.

To know that we caused harm to people is devastating," said Beardsley. "Every nurse took it really hard."

That sentiment goes all the way to the top.

"I think the one thing I want to assure people of is that this has struck us at our core," said Hagan.

New policies are already being put into effect. Some dangerous drugs have been moved to the pharmacy and others have been red-flagged with computer pop-up alerts.

"It's one more safety check to say, 'Wait. Have you checked the route and is the route OK?" said Hagan.

Also, a pink sticker means the drug needs to be administered through the muscle, which was not followed in one of the cases under investigation.

Another concern is verbal orders.

"You have to an extent slow things down and say 'This is what I hear you say.' So the doctors says 'I want this' and the nurse or the respiratory therapist says 'I heard you say that,'" said Hagan.

But will that work in an emergency situation when speed is of the essence?

"What we know is that it is much more important is to do it right the first time than to substitute speed for safety," said Hagan.

The state investigation is still ongoing. So are internal reviews. Many questions remain, some of which children's is not answering. Hagan would not say whether anyone has been fired as a result of these incidents.

But on the patient's floors, there is a feeling the air has been cleared.

"I think everybody's relieved though that we've identified where we can improve and we've set the ball in motion," said Beardsley.

It's going to take much more and Hagan is aware that children's has a lot of work ahead to restore public confidence.

"We know that we have some explaining to do. We know that we have something to prove," said Hagan.

In addition to the state and internal investigations, Childrens' has also brought in outside safety experts to look at their hospital policies and practices.

The state health department has not given Seattle Children's any indication of when to expect the results of its investigation.