A hospital adopted new rules Friday for handling dead babies after a stillborn child was accidentally taken out with the morgue's laundry.
The Lakeshore General Hospital will conduct routine body counts and keep dead babies in bassinets instead of leaving them on stretchers after a 34-week-old stillborn was found last week at an industrial laundromat.
After the baby died Jan. 14 from undisclosed causes, the body was covered in a blue blanket and carried by a nurse to a refrigerated room.
Later that night, the hospital had several adult deaths. Another attendant delivered an adult body, also covered by a blue blanket, into the room. He removed the cover and tossed it on the neighbouring stretcher where the covered baby lay, apparently unseen.
In need of another stretcher, hospital officials say the attendant scooped up what appeared to be a pile of laundry on the gurney and tossed it down the laundry chute.
The baby was discovered in an industrial washing machine two days later at Buanderie Qualité, a facility about 27 kilometres from the hospital, which is located in the Montreal suburb of Pointe-Claire.
Several workers were treated for shock.
Daniel Hébert, the laundromat's co-owner, said several of his workers are women and mothers. "It was total panic, everyone was crying, it was terrible," he told reporters.
The hospital conducted an investigation over the past week and concluded the attendant made a mistake but will not face disciplinary action. The baby's body was returned to the custody of his parents for proper disposal.
"We're not interested in assigning blame, this certainly wasn't the intention of the employee," said Suzanne Turmel, executive director of the West Island health authority.
Ms. Turmel would not say whether the family, whose identity has remained confidential, received compensation or is contemplating legal action.
"We've tried to take care of the family in this situation. They were already coping with the death of an infant, which was obviously very hard for them," Ms. Turmel said.
Nora Zaklama, the head of pathology, said baby deaths are not routine events at the Lakeshore, where six babies died last year.