Heath Minister to Review Report on Deaths of Infants at Victoria Jubilee

Health Minister, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, says he will be thoroughly reviewing a report presented to him on the deaths of four newborns at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) last month.

The babies, who were in the Special Care Nursery (SCN)/Neonatal Care Unit (NCU) at VJH, died within two days of birth.

Investigations have shown that the infants’ deaths were linked to the Group B Streptococcus (GBS) infection.

This is a type of bacterial infection that can be found in a pregnant woman’s vagina or rectum and is recognised to be an important causative agent in neonatal infections.

GBS can cause bladder and uterine infections for the mother and in serious cases meningitis, sepsis, pneumonia and stillbirth.

Intravenous antibiotics are recommended during delivery to reduce the chances of the baby becoming sick.

The findings of the report indicate that in all cases the transmission of GBS was from mother to infant rather than a healthcare facility-associated infection.

At a press conference at his New Kingston office on October 13, Dr. Tufton expressed condolences to the families, and noted that guidance and counselling services will be provided.

He told reporters that following the review, consultations will be held with experts and possibly the Parliamentary Opposition.

“Improvements are going to be ongoing; it is a work in progress… .We regret any loss of life and we are remorseful that those losses occurred,” he said.

Chairman of the South Eastern Regional Health Authority (SERHA), Philip Armstrong, informed that the committee that drafted the report has made recommendations for hospitals offering maternity services.

Among them are the establishment of a protocol for all patients in premature labour, and fever in labour to be swabbed, and antibiotic treatment appropriately given; the protocol for administering antibiotic prophylaxis to patients with prolonged rupture of membrane to be reduced from 18 to 12 hours; and that the infection control team should ensure that the Ministry’s infection control audit instrument checklist/monitoring tool is used on a monthly basis.

In addition, that procedures for routine cleaning must be strictly adhered to; and that an infection control nursing post be established.

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