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Class action lawsuit filed against Summerlin Hospital for tuberculosis outbreak

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Class action lawsuit filed against Summerlin Hospital for tuberculosis outbreak

By Jacqui Heinrich. CREATED Nov 19, 2013

Summerlin, NV (KTNV) -- Summerlin Hospital is facing a class action lawsuit after the tuberculosis outbreak that occurred in the hospital's NICU Level 3 ward this past summer. 

The lawsuit alleges Summerlin Hospital is to blame for multiple employees and others coming down with tuberculosis after a woman and her two babies died from the disease.

The 35-page lawsuit accuses the hospital of negligence, fraud, misrepresentation, and concealment of information that could have prevented the spread of the highly contagious airborne disease that can be deadly.

"Outrageous, shocking and despicable" is what the attorneys from Callister & Associates are calling Summerlin Hospital's handling of the outbreak that led to at least 26 people coming down with the disease.

It all goes back to this past May, when 25-year-old Vanessa White gave birth to premature twins, Abigail and Emma, at Summerlin Hospital. Between June and August, all three died of tuberculosis.

Attorney Matt Callister says Summerlin Hospital covered up knowledge that employees had been exposed to TB after treating the mom and her girls in order to avoid a lawsuit. He claims the hospital told employees they weren't at risk and even let them work on other patients.

"Hospital employees are required to test annually for TB. They were told 'Let's just wait til September', and this was on July 5," Callister told Action News.

Callister says now the hospital is directly to blame for some of those people coming down with tuberculosis, and says there could be others out there who are at risk. 

"Folks who were working in that hospital have moved from floor to floor, room to room. We now know that those same folks have tested positive. There's about 20 employees who have tested positive," Callister said.

Attorney James Williams, who is also working on the case, told Action News, "Anyone who came in that hospital during this period of time needs testing. There is a treatment if [latent tuberculosis] is in you, but if you don't know you have it, it could turn to full blown tuberculosis and could kill you."

The attorneys allege the public is still being lied to, pointing to a message from Summerlin Hospital CEO Robert Freymuller on the hospital's website. It reads, "During the Health District's investigation, it was confirmed that hospital staff followed recommended guidelines." 

Hospital representative Gretchen Papez confirmed Tuesday the hospital is still standing by the CEO's message, despite a scathing report from the state bureau in charge of licensing hospitals.

The Bureau of Health Care Quality and Compliance report stated "Summerlin Hospital failed to follow infection control guidelines" when they let the sick mother visit her babies in the NICU ward without a gown or mask-- while she was running a 103 degree fever-- among other violations.

Williams and Callister have a message for the hospital and its alleged victims: "Hospital, you need to pay for testing, you need to pay for monitoring, and you need to compensate folks who have lost their job, time energy, stress, etc."

Action News reached out to Summerlin Hospital for comment. They refused to go on camera but sent a statement reading, "Although we have not yet seen the lawsuit, Summerlin Hospital intends to defend this case vigorously and looks forward to our opportunity to present all of the facts of this matter in court."

Action News is still awaiting updated numbers from the Southern Nevada Health District on exactly how many people have been tested for tuberculosis relating to the incident, and how many of those people have tested positive for the disease.

Jacqui Heinrich

Jacqui Heinrich

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Jacqui Heinrich is currently a general assignment reporter for Action News.