St. Paul and Red Wing police look into stillborn baby found at laundry.
Regions Hospital officials repeatedly apologized Wednesday after learning that a stillborn baby boy from its morgue was found this week in dirty laundry shipped to a Red Wing cleaning service.
The remains of the boy were discovered Tuesday by Crothall Laundry Services workers in the company’s Red Wing facility, 45 miles south of where his body had been kept in the Twin Cities after he was stillborn late in the second trimester on April 4. According to Red Wing police, there was no indication of foul play.
The St. Paul Police Department is leading an investigation into the incident with the help of Red Wing police and the Ramsey County medical examiner’s office.
The hospital apologized for the mistake Wednesday in a news release and subsequent news conference.
“We are really sorry and saddened that this event happened,” said Chris Boese, Regions’ chief nursing officer, who admitted that she “didn’t get much sleep” after hearing the news.
The hospital, in a statement issued before the news conference, said the case was “an unfortunate event involving the handling of remains” that had been wrapped in linen in the morgue and mistaken for laundry that was sent for cleaning.
The hospital had not realized the remains were missing until the laundry service contacted Regions personnel Tuesday morning, Boese said. The hospital said the remains were immediately collected from Red Wing and secured “according to proper procedures.”
‘Working to identify gap’
In the release, Boese said, “We are working to identify the gap in our system and to make sure this does not happen again.” Later, however, she didn’t offer details about the hospital’s procedures or specifically where the shortcomings occurred other than to say that Regions has a clear policy.
Regions reached the infant’s family Wednesday to apologize and offer support. Boese declined to identify the boy or his family, citing privacy laws.
Steve Carpenter, a president at Crothall Healthcare, the laundry’s corporate parent based in Pennsylvania, said in a statement, “Our hearts go out to all those who were affected by this tragic situation.”
The laundry service workers who made the discovery while the linens were being sorted will be offered support and counseling.
According to Red Wing police, workers for the laundry found the body after it tumbled out of a bedsheet. The baby had a tag on his ankle and was wearing a diaper, police added.
Police were called to the laundry just before 12:30 p.m. Tuesday, but the body had already been picked up by personnel from the hospital and returned to St. Paul, Red Wing Police Chief Roger Pohlman said. That load of linen had been delivered within the previous 48 hours to the laundry, Pohlman said. Officers were shown a photo of the body, and they interviewed witnesses at the laundry service.
The medical examiner was scheduled Wednesday to examine the remains of the baby, which was born at 22 weeks. At that gestation period, the average fetus would be about 7½ inches long and weigh a little more than 12 ounces, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Minnesota law requires hospitals to file a report on stillborn deaths with state regulators within five days. The state Department of Health said Wednesday that Regions had not filed such a report, even though the death occurred April 4.
Similar cases elsewhere
Boese said she could not recall an incident like this ever occurring at Regions, which averages about 2,500 births a year. About 20 to 25 result in stillbirth, she added.