NWRHA: NICU maintenance is not evidence-tampering

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The Port of Spain General Hospital –

THE North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) has denied claims that it has been tampering with evidence and sanitising records, as several different bodies are investigating the conditions at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), where several babies have died recently.

A statement on Wednesday said the NWRHA was co-operating with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) in its investigation and its sanitation of work areas in the laboratory and maintenance of equipment were all standard procedures.

“All requests from PAHO are being facilitated and meetings have been arranged as per their requirements,” the release said.

It added that NWRHA laboratory met with PAHO representatives as early as Tuesday.

It added that sanitation of work areas was done daily as it was done on Tuesday.

“The suggestion that this daily practice equates to tampering of evidence is both reckless and unfortunate,” the statement said.

It added that suggestions to recreate or reinvent the department were “baseless,” as the Haematology Department underwent an audit in December 2023, which resulted in recommendations for certification by the Jamaican National Accreditation Agency.

Equipment maintenance was also identified as standard procedure, after centrifuge machines used by the laboratory at the Port of Spain General Hospital to make blood components were calibrated and certified for use by the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (Cariri), and was also not an indication of any cover-up.

“A centrifuge was purchased in September 2023 and arrived in the country on March 19,” the statement said. “The external biomedical contractor did a pre-installation visit on April 19.”

It said plans were in place to instal the centrifuge by Friday, and up to Tuesday, the area continued to be cleared to facilitate the installation of the machine.

“Contrary to reports there are no dilapidated refrigerators in use at the Haematology laboratory. No refrigerators were removed or replaced from the laboratory that has been in use. Repairs were conducted on April 23, on two of the three refrigerators that were awaiting repairs.”

The statement said there were protocols in place for labelling equipment as out of order.

On April 11, the NWRHA reported that up to seven babies had died at the NICU between April 4 and 7. Initial investigations suggested they died from a bacterial infection. PAHO is  investigating the deaths and Cariri is assisting the NWRHA with its own investigation.

Since the report of the seven deaths at the NICU, several other people have stepped forward with claims of medical negligence, from as far back as 2022.