University of Chicago Hospital Pays $7 Million to Settle NICU Overcrowding of Vulnerable Infants

The University of Chicago Medical Center recently settled a lawsuit charging that the hospital was knowingly overcrowding babies into the neonatal unit in violation of state regulations. The Attorney General of Illinois, Lisa Madigan, argued that the hospital put the vulnerable newborns at risk for serious infections because of the overcrowded conditions. The lawsuit was brought by two whistleblowers: former NICU nurses who were concerned about the conditions that they witnessed.

Nevertheless, University of Chicago spokesman, John Easton, maintains that the physicians and nurses in charge of the neonatal unit did nothing wrong and simply acted “in the patients’ best interests and that no patients were harmed as a result” of overcrowding in the unit. However, from 1997 to 2005, the hospital sought reimbursement from Illinois Medicaid for the care it provided to infants in the Wyler Children’s Hospital on days when bed spacing and capacity already exceeded state regulations. Despite this finding, the hospital claims that it was forced to attend to these patients because many of the ill babies had no other alternatives for care and also had to attend to all patients in emergency situations that came to the hospital seeking medical attention.

The total settlement was $7 million with $5.2 million going to eight community hospitals and clinics that provide preventative care for low-income women who face long-term health consequences that they acquired during delivery. The clinics and hospitals will also use the money to provide money for well-being classes for new mothers, improved treatment for postpartum depression, and safe sex education classes. In addition, $1.4 million will go to the two NICU nurses who filed the lawsuit and $500,000 to the federal centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

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