The University of Chicago Medical Center will pay $7 million to settle a lawsuit for crowding babies in spaces meant for one in its preemie unit, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued the medical center in 2006 for violating state licensing regulations by exceeding the capacity of its neonatal ICU. The hospital placed two or more infants in bed spaces designed for one for more than 5,300 patient days between 1997 and 2005, Madigan's office alleged.
"Double-bunking," or placing babies in side-by-side cribs in a space designed for one crib--violates industry and state guidelines and may increase the risk of infection, according to MedLaw.com.
The medical center faced a choice of either treating sick babies or turning them away, John Easton, a spokesman for the center, told Chicago Public Radio.
The settlement includes $5.2 million that will go to community hospitals and clinics that serve low-income women, and $1.4 million for two former whistleblower nurses at the hospital who filed the lawsuit. Another $500,000 will go to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.
Five years ago, the medical center expanded a neonatal ICU in the Comer Children's Hospital to reduce crowding.
The hospital told CBS that it no longer squeezes extra patients into the preemie ICU.
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