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Hospital: Second stillborn sent to laundry

A second dead baby may have ended up at Red Wing's Crothall Laundry, Regions Hospital in St. Paul said Friday.

The hospital released that statement two days after acknowledging that the stillborn boy -- who tumbled out of linens being prepared for cleaning Tuesday -- came from the Regions Hospital morgue.

The first baby -- a stillborn, premature boy died April 4 at 22 weeks gestation. That body had been wrapped in linens in the morgue. A preliminary investigation found that someone mistakenly thought the bundled body was laundry that needed cleaning.

"As we investigated, our records indicated that there should have been another set of remains in the same location," Chris Boese said. She is the chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care at the hospital.

The second baby was stillborn at 19 weeks.

"We have now ruled out that those remains went to the funeral home or to another location. A tragic human error was made and we believe both sets of remains were mistaken as empty linens and placed in the laundry at the same time by a hospital worker," Boese said.

It is unclear where those remains are now or if they can be recovered.

The Minnesota Department of Health is making regulatory inquiries. Regions officials said they are cooperating with the state in addition to conducting an internal investigation.

Administrators notified the first family about the mistake Wednesday and to apologize. The second family also was notified. These families miscarried and arranged for the hospital to dispose of remains.

"There are no words to describe how deeply saddened we are and how sorry we are for this terrible mistake," Regions Hospital President and CEO Brock Nelson said. "Words are not adequate. We have reached the family to apologize and offer any support that we can."

Chief Roger Pohlman said Friday afternoon he had not been notified about the second child; he turned the case over to St. Paul Police Department Tuesday afternoon.

The investigation began after Red Wing Police Department received a call from a citizen around 12:30 p.m. Tuesday that a dead baby was found in hospital linens at Crothall Laundry, 950 Featherstone Road. The former Hygienic Service Systems cleans linens for many Twin Cities medical facilities.

By the time officers received the call, the first body and the linens around it had been retrieved by Regions.

"That's their practice," Pohlman said of the Crothall Laundry. "They call the place it came from."

Officers learned that the stillborn boy fell out of a sheet being prepared for cleaning. The baby had a tag on its ankle and was wearing a diaper, Pohlman said.

Witnesses told police that staff notified the hospital, which sent personnel to pick up the baby. The hospital also took the linens.

The Red Wing Police Department conducted interviews but also notified St. Paul Police Department and turned the case over that agency.

A family member of a worker told the R-E the discovery occurred around 9 a.m. Workers were told not say anything until the hospital was alerted.

"We believed that the procedures and processes we had in place would prevent a mistake like this from happening. They did not, and that is unacceptable," Nelson said. "We take full responsibility, and we have already made several changes to ensure it never happens again."

The hospital said it immediately implemented an improved identification process that ensures a clear visual identification, an enhanced tracking process and added more security and supervision in the morgue.

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 

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