Bac­te­ria in­fec­tion claims lives of seven new­borns at Vic­to­ria Ju­bilee Hospi­tal

Jamaica Gleaner - - FRONT PAGE - Erica Virtue Se­nior Gleaner Writer

FOR THE sec­ond time in less than a year, the pub­lic health sec­tor has been hit with the sud­den deaths of new­born ba­bies.

This time it is the is­land’s lead­ing ma­ter­nity hospi­tal, the Vic­to­ria Ju­bilee Hospi­tal (VJH) in Kingston, where the of­fi­cial re­port is that seven ba­bies have died in the past three months from sep­sis, al­though Sun­day Gleaner sources claim the num­ber of deaths is much higher.

Sep­sis is a po­ten­tially deadly con­di­tion that oc­curs when cer­tain bac­te­ria, fungi or par­a­sites at­tack crit­i­cal or­gans in the new­borns.

The Govern­ment’s chief med­i­cal of­fi­cer, Dr Win­ston De La Haye, late last week con­firmed the deaths which forced the tem­po­rary clo­sure of the labour ward at the hospi­tal, where 8,000 to 10,000 ba­bies are de­liv­ered an­nu­ally.

“I spoke to in­di­vid­u­als at Vic­to­ria Ju­bilee and they have had re­ports about a par­tic­u­lar bac­te­rial in­fec­tion in seven ba­bies last month. They have had in the last month seven, four dead within 24 hours of de­liv­ery, re­lated to a spe­cific feeder of a par­tic­u­lar or­gan­ism, which isn’t in­sti­tu­tion-re­lated, but ex­ists in the vagi­nal tracts of the mothers,” De La Haye told The Sun­day Gleaner.

Ac­cord­ing to De La Haye, fol­low­ing the re­port, the hospi­tal im­me­di­ately went into proac­tive mode and shut down the labour ward for com­plete ster­il­i­sa­tion.

“It is some­thing that is seen in­ter­na­tion­ally in about 20-30 per cent of preg­nant women, and that is a rel­a­tively high per­cent­age. How­ever, we don’t have a fig­ure for here, so we will dif­fer from else­where in the world with that stan­dard per­cent­age.

“In the United States, they do screen­ing of preg­nant mothers for such things, by do­ing rec­tal and vagi­nal swabs just be­fore birth,” said De La Haye, as he added that in­ter­na­tion­ally, one to two per cent of ba­bies have in­fec­tions trans­mit­ted to them at birth. HOSPI­TAL DE­NIED DEATHS Two weeks ago, of­fi­cials at the hospi­tal de­nied the deaths, and the labour ward locked down when The Sun­day Gleaner first made en­quiries.

Our news team was told that “noth­ing of the sort hap­pened, or is hap­pen­ing there”, and the me­dia was try­ing to “cause mis­chief”. But sources were in­sis­tent that there was a prob­lem with the ba­bies dy­ing in the nurs­ery, al­though the in­fec­tion was traced to the labour ward.

“There was a bug, yes. And yes, the labour ward was closed, but to the best of my knowl­edge it was only for 24 hours. Ba­bies were then de­liv­ered from the in­duc­tion ward, which is around the cor­ner from the labour ward,” one source em­pha­sised.

In con­firm­ing the in­for­ma­tion from the sources, De La Haye said the num­ber of deaths at the hospi­tal was un­usual.

“At Ju­bilee, you have about one death per month, ap­prox­i­mately 10 per year. So the ques­tion is: is four deaths in a month un­usual? Yes, it is. And it’s be­cause of that why the whole ward was swabbed to en­sure that it is not some­thing from the fa­cil­ity, which it is not. So they have that in­for­ma­tion now,” he ex­plained.

De La Haye said he could not dis­close the par­tic­u­lar or­gan­ism that caused the in­fec­tion, as he did not have that in­for­ma­tion.

Last year, the pub­lic health sec­tor was left in a tail­spin when an out­break of kleb­siella and ser­ra­tia bac­te­rial in­fec­tion led to the deaths of sev­eral pre­ma­ture ba­bies at two of the is­land’s ma­jor hos­pi­tals.

The out­break at the Univer­sity Hospi­tal of the West Indies and the Corn­wall Re­gional Hospi­tal re­sulted in 18 of 42 in­fected new­born ba­bies dy­ing in a three-four-month pe­riod.

That in­ci­dent caused the

SUN­DAY, OC­TO­BER 9, 2016 De La Haye: There was a bug, yes. And yes, the labour ward was closed, but to the best of my knowl­edge it was only for 24 hours.

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