Grieving parents of an infant who died in New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital during a three-day nurses’ strike last month are waiting to see if an investigation into their child’s death will reveal if it had an impact on the baby’s demise.
Craige and Saran Morton lost their newborn, Noah, on Jan. 11, the final day of a nurses’ strike affecting New York’s Mount Sinai Hospital and Montefiore Medical Center.
However, some hospital staff wonders if the baby’s death impacted the facility’s decision to settle with the nurses’ union. 4 NBC New York reports that the hospital reached a deal with striking nurses just hours after Noah’s death. A spokesperson for the hospital said the probe is “a Root Cause Analysis,” to determine if any mistakes occurred. Not all NICU deaths are subject to this type of investigation.
Even though the baby was born with a heart condition, his parents believe he was showing signs of improvement. However, after being informed by the hospital of their son’s death, and that an investigation was launched surrounding the circumstances three weeks later, they are questioning if they were told everything.
“It seemed so sudden,” Craige said.
Saran said she “was surprised.”
“I thought he was getting better. They basically had just said that he was looking pale,” the bereaved mother said.
Born on Sept. 8, 2022, the child spent the majority of his short life in the care of one of New York City’s top medical facilities for babies and children. Care providers tried to strengthen his breathing so doctors could close the hole in his heart through surgery.
Employees from Mount Sinai explained to them Noah died as staffers were attempting to insert an IV into his small body to pump in blood. During the procedure, his heart stopped and the medical professionals were unable to revive the infant.
The parents say they were unaware that there was an investigation going on and are now considering if the strike of 7,000 nurses had anything to do with the loss of Noah’s life. The nurses went on strike because they believed the hospitals were understaffing their facilities and overtaxing the essential workers, according to reports.
“If they know that his care was impacted by the strike, we would like to know,” Saran explained.
Mount Sinai says the timing of Noah’s death was merely coincidental and was not influenced by the strike. The review will either confirm or dispute this. However, 4 NBC New York said some at the hospital suspect the baby’s death is connected with the outcome of the fight and if management was better prepared for the strike, it may have saved the baby’s life.
“There was no indication they planned to settle,” said one insider. “A lot of people in the hospital can’t help but wonder if this was what expedited an agreement.”
The person would not into details but offered there were warning signs that Noah’s health was declining and the temporary staff missed them.
“These babies can get very sick very quickly. … That’s why subtle things you see are important to report, and highly trained NICU nurses do that,” one of the nurses said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Although there was a 1:1 baby-to-care-provider ratio, some say those replacement nurses were simply not as trained and the hospital was stretched thin with the most competent workers outside picketing.
“They essentially tied one hand behind our backs. Senior executives put all these providers, doctors, nurses, the people caring for these babies, in an impossible situation,” the hospital insider told the NBC affiliate.
Hospital management was warned before the strike the most fragile patients, particularly those in the NICU, would be dangerously impacted should staff nurses call out of work. Still, the hospital did not square up with the union and meet their demands.
“We want this strike to end, but we cannot afford to offer more than is fair,” an email from Sinai management said a few hours before Noah’s death.
Mount Sinai insists they did enough. The hospital transferred some babies to other hospitals. Those that remained were said to have been “too sick to move.” They also brought in nurses from other places, including hundreds of traveling nurses prepared to step in and step up. However, one nurse took to social media and said she quit after one day in because the patient workload was so exhaustive.
While the strike was resolved after three days, others at the hospital said they were overwhelmed. One source shared that an infant was accidentally given the wrong breast milk.
For the insiders, the issue is not the replacement staff or the striking nurses. It is the hospital leadership who refused to hire more temporary staff with the experience needed to step in, adding that the suits had weeks to figure this out but did not.
“The higher-level leadership places importance on profit before patients and their staff. And the outcome for this baby was a devastating consequence of that mentality,” one source said.