NWRHA: Trinidad and Tobago’s healthcare system has not collapsed

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

A view of the Port of Spain General Hospital. – File photo

THE North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) says there has been no collapse or breakdown of Trinidad and Tobago’s healthcare system.

It said the root cause of the deaths of seven infants at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Port of Spain General Hospital between April 4-9 is still to be determined.

In a release on April 20, the NWRHA said it wanted to “share some indisputable facts” with the public after the “negative media coverage” and announcement of pre-action protocol letters sent to the authority warning of a class-action lawsuit for medical negligence by the parents of at least 11 babies who were infected and died while in the NICU.

On April 18, the NWRHA announced the head of the Infection Prevention Control Unit at the hospital, Dr Darrel Jones, was sent on administrative leave pending the outcome of investigations into the presence of several types of bacterium in the NICU.

It said because of the legal action the NWRHA was not in a position to correct a lot of “speculation and misinformation” but it assured the public all of the nation’s healthcare facilities were fully functional and the thousands of healthcare professionals there remained dedicated and professional in carrying out their duties.

It added that the NWRHA was “deeply committed” to the established standards of care endorsed by international bodies and strived to continually improve its care.

As to the infant deaths it said: “Of equal importance is finding out how and why these deaths occurred and the steps necessary to prevent a recurrence. This is the subject of the investigation that is being conducted by PAHO at the request of the Ministry of Health alongside the NWHRA’s own internal investigation. We eagerly await their findings, and remain committed to co-operating fully with all enquiries.”

It said every month the NWRHA’s NICU admits approximately 33 of the smallest and sickest babies from all the regional health authorities in TT.

It explained a full-term baby was usually delivered between 39-41 weeks, an early-term baby between 37-38 weeks and six days and, a neonate was any baby from birth to 28 days of life. All babies born before 37 weeks gestational age were considered to be preterm.

The release said in 2023 there were 2,169 live births across the NWRHA and 19 per cent or 403 were admitted to the NICU. Of those 403, 19 passed away resulting in a neonatal mortality rate of eight per 1,000 live births.

In 2022 the neonatal mortality rate was 6.2 per 1,000 live births.

Comparatively, according to a World Bank report in 2021, the neonatal mortality rate for Barbados was eight per 1,000 live births; Suriname was 11, Jamaica was ten, Guyana was 17 and Caribbean Small States was 11 per 1,000 live births.