By Lorraine Mendez
The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has confirmed that low staff-to-patient ratios and non-compliance with some infection prevention and control protocols were major contributing factors in the bacterial outbreak that resulted in the death of a dozen newborns at Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) last year.
The neonates died over the period July to October last year.
Health Minister Dr. Christopher Tufton shared the findings from the PAHO report on special care nurseries at Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Bustamante Hospital for Children and Spanish Town Hospital during a media briefing on Tuesday.
Apart from the outbreak at Victoria Jubilee Hospital, the PAHO report indicated that there were no cases of the deadly infection at other hospitals.
While noting that the death of one newborn was "one too many", Dr. Tufton argued that the problem was not as significant as was initially reported.
He said the ministry regrets the circumstances that contributed to the deaths of the neonates, and insisted "we have to learn the lessons from these circumstances to avoid a recurrence of them".
He, however, commended the team that responded to the issue, saying it "did well to address the situation" under the circumstances.
Dr. Tufton said since last year, the health team has implemented measures to preserve life and health at all three nurseries.
These include increased sterilisation, cleaning and disinfection as well as increased monitoring and auditing of infection prevention and control measures.
Staffing levels have also been assessed, but Dr. Tufton said the nurse-to-baby ratio is not yet at the standard set by the World Health Organization.
"We have attempted to make adjustments where we can, moving around people from one place to the next. It, in some instances, may mean even depriving other parts of the institution with the ideal numbers, because there is a genuine staff shortage for all sorts of reasons," he explained.
He said there is to be ongoing collaboration with PAHO to support advanced training for infection prevention and control, as well as to design targeted healthcare-associated infections surveillance programmes.