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Doctors Medical Center agrees to settle infant salmonella case

Sheila  Vega of Salida is seeking damages from Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, claiming daughter Skylin, 2, was infected with salmonella there as a newborn.
Sheila Vega of Salida is seeking damages from Doctors Medical Center of Modesto, claiming daughter Skylin, 2, was infected with salmonella there as a newborn. aalfaro@modbee.com

Doctors Medical Center of Modesto has agreed to settle a Salida woman’s lawsuit, which claimed her newborn daughter was infected with salmonella in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit.

A judge will consider approving the $150,000 settlement during a Feb. 3 hearing in Santa Clara Superior Court.

Sheila Vega’s newborn daughter was found to be infected with the salmonella Newport strain in the hospital’s NICU in April 2012. After infant formula was ruled out as the cause, the lawsuit claimed the bacteria was spread from another salmonella-infected infant at Doctors.

Vega’s attorney blamed the outbreak on a lapse in infectious disease control procedures at Doctors. Skylin Vega, who was born six weeks premature, was treated at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto. She continued to test positive for salmonella until she was 2 years old, her mother said.

Salmonella poisoning includes symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, fever, diarrhea and abdominal pain. The infection can enter the bloodstream and cause damage to the joints, the heart and other organs.

In a statement, Doctors said it decided to settle the lawsuit even though “we strongly believe there is no evidence to fault our staff or facility.”

The hospital said a thorough case review was conducted when the situation occurred in 2012 and no deficiencies were found. That review included a visit from the California Department of Public Health.

Matthew Haberkorn, a Menlo Park attorney representing the plaintiff, said the court could approve the settlement next month after reviewing his attorney fees and arrangements for putting the funds in an account for the child.

The case was originally filed in Santa Clara County in 2013 because the company that supplies infant formula to Doctors has facilities there. The company no longer is a defendant in the case.

A second lawsuit against Doctors continues in San Joaquin Superior Court. Amilkar and Koraleen Ortega of Manteca are amending their medical malpractice lawsuit and claim their premature son was exposed to salmonella before his death in the NICU on May 7, 2012, their attorney said. The infant died from an intestinal disorder called necrotizing enterocolitis.

According to the Merck Manual, necrotizing enterocolitis is the most common gastrointestinal emergency in premature infants and may be associated with bacterial organisms.

San Francisco attorney David Anderson said the Ortegas’ newborn should have been tested for salmonella after staff noted changes in the boy’s stool.

Bee staff writer Ken Carlson can be reached at kcarlson@modbee.com or (209) 578-2321.

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