SWRHA: No bacterial NICU deaths in August 2022

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

The San Fernando General Hospital. – Photo by Ayanna Kinsale

The South West Regional Health Authority (SWRHA) has denied claims in a newspaper report that three pre-term babies died there from a bacterial infection in August 2022.

The article, published in another newspaper on Monday, recounted how a Princes Town family lost its seemingly health baby 15 days after he was warded at the San Fernando General Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) in August 2022.

The Pseudomonas bacterium was identified as the cause of the infection that ultimately took the life of Matthew Ramdass.

Annalisa Ramdass was quoted as saying while registering her baby’s death, she was told two other babies had died that night from a bacterial infection. The newspaper, however, said this was not verified.

In a release on Monday, the SWRHA said the article asserted a certain level of innuendo “inviting unnecessary speculation,” to which it believes it did not have sufficient time to respond before it was published.

In a bid to clear the air, it said a review of its records did not show three deaths related to the same micro-organism during the period, suggesting an outbreak at the NICU.

“The neonatal mortality rate at the NICU is three-four deaths per 1,000 live births for the last three years (2021-2023), which is well below the World Health Organization global neonatal mortality figures of 17 per 1,000 live births published in 2022,” it said.

The SWRHA defended its infection prevention and control standards in the NICU, which it said are strictly upheld and consistent with international best practices and the accreditation standards for Trinidad and Tobago.

“The authority has a NICU infection monitoring and management protocol to monitor infection levels and activate measures to mitigate against spread and propagation. A traffic light system was introduced under the current administration for observing and understanding the associated risks.

“Orange (heightened) alert is announced when there are six babies with different micro-organisms, and escalated to red alert once three or more babies are infected with the same micro-organism. Once orange alert is called, all infected babies are placed in a separate area and staff are divided into two groups, in order to avoid the risk of cross-transmission to the uninfected group.”

The SWRHA said it is proud of its dedicated staff who are focused on transforming healthcare delivery within its region and going beyond the call of duty to consistently ensure the delivery of excellent patient care.

The allegations come in the wake of public concern and outrage over the deaths of seven babies between April 2 and 9 at the Port of Spain General Hospital’s NICU. The North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) later said laboratory tests detected the presence of Serratia marcesens, ESBL Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Klebsiella aerogenes bacteria.

The parents have since filed legal action against the NWRHA.

Last week Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh said the Pan American Health Organization would do an independent investigation.