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Edmonton family sues after infant was allegedly given tainted breast milk
Julia Parrish, CTV Edmonton
Published Thursday, January 17, 2013 2:03PM MST
Last Updated Thursday, January 17, 2013 6:26PM MST
An Edmonton lawyer confirmed to CTV News Thursday that staff at an Edmonton hospital, and a pediatrician were being sued by an Edmonton family – after their infant was allegedly given tainted breast milk while in care.
According to court documents filed on Jan. 11 Kade Fleming was born at the Royal Alexandra Hospital by caesarian section on Jan. 12, 2011 to Celeste and Jeffrey Fleming.
The baby was then admitted to the neo-natal intensive care unit at the hospital, where he was treated for about two weeks.
While Kade was in hospital, Celeste had been breastfeeding her son, while providing breast milk to the hospital to feed Kade at night.
“She went home one night, and the next morning she received a call saying we’re very sorry there’s been a mix-up,” Lawyer Carol Robinson said.
The documents state that Kade was not yet two weeks old when a nurse fed him breast milk from another mother on Jan. 25, 2011.
The family was notified of the error the next day – when doctors requisitioned blood tests for Kade and Celeste, in addition to the other mother.
The documents said staff at the hospital didn’t follow-up with the family on the results of the tests until Celeste called the hospital on April 12, 2011 – when she found out the donor mother’s blood sample had tested positive for Hepatitis C.
After that, the Flemings asked their pediatrician to test Kade for the presence of the virus, but court documents said the doctor didn’t include contact information for her office on the requisition.
The family then returned to the doctor’s office on Oct. 28 – but results of the blood test had not arrived from the lab.
The lab received instructions to send the results to the doctor’s office on Jan. 6, 2012, and the family learned Kade’s blood work had come back clear of HIV and Hepatitis.
The lawsuit states as a result of the error, the couple suffered ‘nervous shock’ – Celeste developed anxiety, mood swings, emotional instability and a diminished breast milk supply, her husband Jeffrey also experienced anxiety, stress, anger and disrupted sleep – which was aggravated by the delay in finding out the results from Kade’s tests.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Defendants named in the lawsuit are Alberta Health Services as the owner and operator of the Royal Alexandra Hospital, and Dr. Sze Lap Lee, Dr. Paul Byrne, Dr. Waldemar Szymanski, and two unnamed defendants called Dr. John Doe, and Nurse Jane Doe, in addition to the family’s pediatrician Dr. Anna Malanowska.
Robinson sent CTV News a statement saying the incident the Flemings encountered was not an isolated one – citing a Health Quality Council of Alberta report issued on March 2010 which outlined two similar incidents dating back to 2009 and 2006.
The 2009 study found six incidents of breast milk mix-ups taking place at the Stollery Children’s Hospital between January 2007 and March 2009 – in addition to four incidents at the Alberta Children’s Hospital in Calgary between October 2006 and March 2009.
The study from three years before that found 21 more cases reported in Calgary hospitals between 2001 and 2006.
The HQCA report went on to claim recommendations from the earlier studies had not been prioritized – and babies continued to face the risk of exposure to viral pathogens such as HIV and Hepatitis B and C.
“The policies were not implemented, or if they were implemented they were not followed,” Robinson said.
The family is seeking compensation for punitive and other damages, totaling in excess of $3 million.
Robinson insisted the lawsuit isn’t about money, but public awareness and accountability.
“They want this hospital, this administration, to be punished for the flagrant disregard of how these bodily fluids ought to be treated,” Robinson said.
AHS and its staff have 30 days to file a statement of defence at the law courts.
With files from Susan Amerongen