South Sound News

Parents allege mistreatment and neglect against a Tacoma hospital

A couple says their newborn has been in the NICU at St. Joseph’s Medical Center for almost three weeks.

Alyssa and Charles Pepper say they’ve found open sores on his backside and old milk in his feeding tubes.

The family says they had their firstborn at St. Joseph’s seven years prior, and he needed time in the NICU too.

Their oldest received so much TLC the couple says they were more than confident in the NICU staff.

The couple says even before finding their newborn in what they say are deplorable conditions, the staff questioned whether Alyssa was even in labor.

“I had already been through this once I know what it feels like when something falling out of you and to be told you don’t know what you’re talking about is a terrible feeling,” said Alyssa.

Alyssa says her epidural only worked on half of her body and the pain still penetrated.

“All of it [the pain] on half my body,” said Alyssa.

Charles added, “I’m surprised I have a hand.”

Their newborn Bryan weighed in at just over five pounds and 19 inches long.

After a few seconds of skin-to-skin time, Bryan was whisked away to the NICU.

Every day since his birthday, February 8, Charles and Alyssa have been by his crib side.

Then on the first weekend Bryan spent in the NICU Charles says he found a thick, smelly, crusty build-up between the baby’s legs.

This past weekend, Charles says he found sores on the baby’s backside.

“It was literally like this size on each little cheek that he has of just blood, it was literally coming out,” Charles said.

Charles also said the staff didn’t know how to do basic tasks and said, “(The nurse) didn’t know how to put on dust and crust. It’s a barrier that’s supposed to protect the skin. She didn’t know how to put that on, so I applied it.”

This past Monday, the Peppers say they found Bryan lying in his own spit-up.

Their five-pound baby also kept losing weight. When the nurse gave Charles milk to add to his feeding tubes, the Peppers believe they figured out why. The milk from the previous feeding was still there.

“Standard protocol is you clear the feeding tube after they’re done eating. She looked at me point blank and said I know it’s policy but we don’t do it,” said Charles.

He added, “Every time he’s getting the first bit of milk it’s rotten and they couldn’t figure out why he was having diarrhea and why he was losing weight because of the diarrhea and they were feeding him 3-hour-old milk.”

“You can google it. The CDC says the same thing you cannot use formula for more than an hour at room temperature. And he just had formula sitting in his feeding tube for three hours, every feeding. That’s eight feedings a day,” said Alyssa.

The Peppers also say Bryan’s diaper only gets changed every three hours, when he’s getting fed.

“I said so when you’re doing your rounds if you smell or anything you don’t change them? She said no, we just change them every three hours. It’s policy apparently,” said Charles.

The Peppers say right now it’s just a waiting game for Bryan to come home. It could be two weeks, but they say his release date has been pushed back several times already.

“When you’re not here you have no idea what’s happening. There’s days the nurses don’t chart anything. No feeds. No bowel movements,” said Alyssa. “That drive home is gut-wrenching like it’s quiet. You don’t know what to say I don’t know what to say to make her better. There’s nothing that fixes because you just wonder the next time you come in if he’s even going to be there.”

St. Joseph’s Medical Center did send a statement that said:

“St. Joseph Medical Center is committed to providing high-quality and safe care to all of our patients, especially our most vulnerable. We take the allegation of mistreatment seriously and are working with the family to understand their concerns. Based on the limited details provided and due to patient privacy law, we are unable to provide additional information. NICU patients require complex care and we adhere to best clinical practices to ensure the highest quality care possible.” – Jennifer Schomburg, President of St. Joseph Medical Center