Failure-to-Inform Claim Survives in Case Against Health Clinic

, The Legal Intelligencer

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The government-run clinic that provided prenatal care for a mother who gave birth while she unknowingly carried streptococcus B has secured summary judgment extinguishing most of the claims brought against it.

But the clinic must still face a claim that it breached the standard of care by not telling the mother, Briana Winfield, that she had tested positive for the bacteria, which she passed on to her baby.

U.S. District Judge Harvey Bartle III of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania sided almost wholly with the Parkview Health Center on the medical malpractice action brought by Winfield and Rasheed Carter on behalf of themselves and their infant daughter, Zaya Winfield Carter.

"The motion of the government for summary judgment will be denied on the issue of whether Parkview breached the applicable standard of care in failing to inform Winfield of her positive GBS test results before August 5," Bartle said, referring to the group B streptococcus, called GBS, that Winfield tested positive for shortly before she gave birth.

About 30 percent of women carry the bacteria, which can cause severe illness in newborns if it is transferred to them during birth. In an effort to reduce neonatal GBS, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention developed guidelines calling for obstetricians to screen their patients for GBS at 35 to 37 weeks, so that antibiotics can be administered during delivery if the mother tests positive. Intravenous antibiotics administered during delivery dramatically reduce the likelihood that GBS will be transferred to the infant, according to the opinion.

Winfield's doctor at Parkview gave her the test at the appropriate time, when she was just shy of 37 weeks, but the results were filed to be discussed with her at a follow-up visit scheduled for just before her due date. Winfield wasn't told that her test results were abnormal, according to the opinion.

However, Winfield went into labor about two weeks before her due date and ended up giving birth at a different hospital than the one she and her doctors at Parkview had planned on. The hospital in which she gave birth didn't have the records reflecting her GBS test results and she wasn't given antibiotics during labor.

Four days after Winfield went home with her baby, the baby was admitted to a children's hospital with GBS meningitis, obstructive hydrocephalus and GBS sepsis, according to the opinion.

Winfield and Carter then filed their suit alleging that Parkview breached its duty of care by failing to attach the GBS test results to Winfield's chart, failing to notify the hospital where Winfield gave birth of the GBS test results in a timely manner, and failing to notify Winfield of the results and recommended course of treatment.

The evidence available about Hahnemann University Hospital's efforts to contact Parkview before Winfield gave birth doesn't necessarily show that Parkview had sufficient notice that the records were required, Bartle decided. Phone records indicate that two phone calls were made from Hahnemann to Parkview on the day Winfield gave birth; one was made in the morning before Parkview was open, according to the opinion.

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