October 06, 2017 10:33 PM
The family of a baby stillborn at Regions Hospital in St. Paul in April 2013 have filed a medical malpractice lawsuit in Ramsey County alleging hospital personnel promised to cremate the baby but instead threw out the body with dirty laundry.
Esmeralda Maria Hernandez, the child's mother, and seven other family members are plaintiffs in the suit filed last week.
It also claims the hospital did not initially inform Hernandez or her family of what had happened.
"We want to say again that we are truly sorry for our mistake," the hospital said in a statement. "We immediately reached out to the family in 2013 to apologize and to try to help ease their loss. We have continued to work with their lawyer – always open to a reasonable resolution.
"We also took immediate steps to ensure that this would not happen again. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reviewed and approved our updated processes in 2014. We continue to review these processes on an ongoing basis."
The lawsuit claims the baby's body was discovered by laundry workers at a facility in Red Wing, still in a diaper and with hospital identification bracelets. It further alleges laundry workers then gawked at the baby's body, took photos and passed them around digitally.
According to the lawsuit, Esmeralda Hernandez arrived at Regions at 9:15 a.m. on April 3, 2013 in pre-term labor. As she was just 22 weeks along, doctors reportedly counseled her that her baby would most likely be stillborn.
At 3:09 p.m., she delivered a stillborn baby she named Jose.
It is alleged Hernandez and family kept the body in her hospital room overnight to mourn his loss with the encouragement of Regions personnel. And that the family declined an autopsy "out of respect for the integrity of Baby Jose's body."
The lawsuit claims Regions offered to cremate the body "in a respectful and dignified manner." Based on that promise, the family agreed. But around two weeks later, on April 16, an anonymous tipster informed the Red Wing Police Department that workers at Crothall Laundry Services Inc. had discovered the body of a baby.
A Red Wing police report on the matter states an office manager at Crothall was interviewed, who reportedly said she assumed the baby's body had come from Regions. That "it is not uncommon for her employees to find medical waste in the linens from Regions which may consist of tissue, blood, and on occasion, an appendage."
The report said the office manager stated when something like that shows up, she called a security officer at Regions, which she did on this occasion as well.
The report also alleges administrators at Crothall said the police had not been called by officials there because "they prefer to deal with their customers on matters such as this," but the administrators denied any type of cover-up was being attempted.
The lawsuit filed last week goes on to say the body was identified as Baby Jose. It claims Regions was informed of the body's discovery, and hospital personnel came to claim it. But the suit alleges they did not report what had happened to police, nor did they inform Hernandez or her family of what had transpired
But the lawsuit notes word of the body's discovery did become public and received media coverage. In light of that news, the lawsuit claims the Hernandez family contacted the hospital asking if the baby found was theirs.
It alleges hospital officials refused to answer, instead asking them to come to the hospital.
The following day, the lawsuit claims, Regions representatives acknowledged the baby found was that of Jose.
According to a St. Paul police report, Regions reportedly learned another baby had been tossed out in the laundry.
The police incident report on that infant states an officer was contacted on April 19 by hospital staff reporting the second matter. The report states the female baby was delivered stillborn on April 7 and given the name Chang.
"Regions Hospital staff reported that these remains were most probably delivered to the same laundry service and have not been located," the report reads. "It is believed these remains were in the same bag and went to the same facility."
The incident report states Regions staff discovered the information as they were reviewing the previous incident and immediately called police to report it.
The lawsuit filed last week claims the hospitals' actions caused family members to endure mental pain and suffering. It is seeking damages in an amount far in excess of $50,000 for each of the individual family members named as plaintiffs.
Josh Rosenthal and Frank Rajkowski
Updated: October 06, 2017 10:33 PM
Created: October 06, 2017 11:40 AM
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