Neonatal care expert: ‘Vulgar’ narrative on NICU deaths hurting babies’ parents

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne. PHOTO FROM –

NEONATOLOGIST Dr Petronella Manning-Alleyne has condemned what she described as a vulgar narrative being pursued in the media with respect to the babies who died at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at the Port of Spain General Hospital (PosGH) and the NICU’s staff.

She claimed this narrative is being pursued by people who are attempting to exploit the vulnerabilities of the babies’ parents and the NICU staff, for their own benefit.

Seven babies died from a bacterial infection at the NICU between April 4 and 9.

The parents of these babies have since initiated legal action against the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) over their babies’ deaths.

They are being represented by Freedom Law Chambers, which is led by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC.

The PosGH falls under the NWRHA’s jurisdiction.

The parents of other babies who died at the NICU have also joined the lawsuit against the the NWRHA by Freedom Law Chambers.

In a video that was posted on her Facebook page and subsequently sent to Newsday, Manning-Alleyne said she had turned down requests from the media to be interviewed about the deaths of babies at the NICU and events related to that.

She gave her reason for declining these requests.

“I would like to suggest that the vulgar interest that we seem to have in what is going on in the neonatal unit at PosGH is just that. It’s vulgar. It does not help anybody, and I would suggest that we should feel a little bit more for the parents who have lost children. They are angry because they have lost their children.”

Manning-Alleyne had a message for anyone pushing such a narrative or trying to exploit the parties involved in this matter for their own benefit.

“I want them to stop it, because this is not how life works.”

In addition to being a neonatologist, Manning-Alleyne is also experienced in death counselling.

She said there are stages of grief that people go through when someone close to them dies, and failure to come out of any stage of the grief process negatively affects one’s ability to heal.

The first stage is denial and this is followed by anger.

Manning-Alleyne said these two stages of grief are what the babies’ parents are going through now. The latter, she continued, will see the parents blaming everything and everyone for their babies’ death.

Manning-Alleyne said it is wrong for anyone trying to keep the parents in this state of anger so they could benefit from it.

“We need to support them. We don’t need to bury them in a big barrel of anger. When we do that. we hurt them to the extent that they are going to be having a lot of difficulty recovering from that.”

Manning-Alleyne, who played a key role in the establishment of the PoSGH’s NICU and worked there for 28 years, called for similar consideration to be given to the feelings of the unit’s staff.

As a neonatologist, Manning-Alleyne said, “I have lost babies, and it is not a good feeling. It is not a good feeling for the parents.”

She added it is also not a good feeling for the NICU staff who still have to care for the other babies in the unit.

Manning-Alleyne said it takes a particular type of person to work in neonatal intensive care.

“We who do intensive care and we who do neonatal intensive care, you have to have a certain kind of interest and and certain kind of expertise in order to work with children of that kind of age group.”

Manning-Alleyne said it is a difficult thing for a doctor or nurse to tell a parent their child is dead.

She recalled one such case that was very traumatic for her.

“I had to go home and cry for the whole day and I had to get somebody to talk to me and I had to come back to the hospital and show the parent a straight face.”

Manning-Alleyne left the PoSGH in 2008.

Referring to the bacterial infection the seven babies died from earlier this month, Manning-Alleyne said, “I don’t know anything about those organisms. They did not exist when I was working in the hospital.”

She added that certain things could have happened over the last 15 years when it came to certain bacteria and their evolution.

Manning-Alleyne made a comparison to the covid19 virus which developed a resistance to initial vaccines used to treat it and new vaccines had to be created to successfully combat the virus.

She said bacterial organisms could have developed a resistance to antibiotics initially used to treat them and different antibiotics have to be used on them now.

Manning Alleyne added that in situations such as this cluster problems happen and there is international literature on this subject which shows these problems are not unique or pertinent to PoSGH alone.

She reiterated her call for a proper understanding of matters happening at the NICU and for people seeking to benefit from this situation to desist immediately.

“I am asking for peace. I am asking that we be a little more considerate in how we look at these situations.”