Shelby Baptist workers truly deserve hero label

By JAN GRIFFEY/Editor

The recent deaths of patients at area hospitals, who died after developing a bacterial infection from a nutritional formula prescribed for them, is a horrendous tragedy by any measure.

However, that tragedy could have been much worse, if not for the astute and caring work of several employees at Shelby Baptist Medical Center in Alabaster.

Shelby Baptist’s CEO David Wilson called them heroes. We couldn’t agree more.

During the height of the spring break vacation season, Shelby Baptist, like most places, was operating with a smaller-than-normal crew. However, that’s when the hospital’s infection control manager, upon reviewing hospital data noticed the unusual number of cases of the serratia marcescens bacteria.

Dr. Elizabeth Ennis, chief medical officer for Baptist Health Systems, said typically the hospital sees two cases of that particular bacterial infection in a year.

When this Shelby Baptist manager, who hospital officials did not want to name as a way of protecting her privacy, noticed that number of cases within a couple of days, it got her attention.

The infection control manager quickly consulted other employees and together they followed the hospital’s protocol for such situations, which led them to culturing one of the bags of nutritional formula as part of their investigation, and that’s where the bacteria was found.

All of this happened within several hours. In fact, it was the Shelby Baptist employees who called the manufacturer of the nutritional formula and let them know they had a problem. They also immediately notified the Alabama Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control.

The work of these employees didn’t simply save the lives of other Shelby Baptist patients, but also very likely saved lives of patients at the other five hospitals who also administered the nutritional formula to their patients.

While the incident is truly heartbreaking, it’s difficult not to feel a good measure of pride for the actions of the “tenacious and intellectually curious” workers at Shelby Baptist, to use Dr. Ennis’s words.

All in Shelby County can breathe a little easier, knowing this caliber of health care is hard at work at our county’s hospital.