More Dead Babies In Jamaica; Probe Underway

Jamaica’s Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton has ordered an investigation into the deaths of four newborns at the island’s leading maternity hospital, Victoria Jubilee Hospital, after The Sunday Gleaner newspaper revealed that the babies were among seven at the facility that had contracted sepsis, a potentially deadly condition that occurs when newborns are attacked by bacterial infection.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the untimely deaths of four babies at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital over a one-month period. As a parent, I can understand the pain and grief currently being faced by these families,” Tufton said yesterday.

Though Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Winston De La Haye has explained that he has been corresponding with officials at the hospital in Kingston since being alerted to the bacterial infection some months ago, Tufton has moved to establish a committee to probe the matter. The committee is to release a report within a week.

De La Haye, who will sit on the fact-finding committee, has already stated that the deaths were caused by a bacterial infection related to a specific feeder of an organism which exists in the vaginal tracts of the mothers.

In The Sunday Gleaner report published yesterday, in which it was initially stated that seven babies had died over a three-month period, De La Haye was adamant that the organism that caused the deaths was not institution-related and pointed out that the hospital had taken proactive action by shutting down the labour ward for sterilisation activities.

The CMO said that a report was already being compiled on the specific circumstances relating to the deaths of the four newborns.

But Opposition Spokesperson on Health Horace Dalley said he had cause to believe that there have been some 20 deaths of newborns at Victoria Jubilee and not four as has been reported by the health officials.

“We are calling for the minister of health to give full disclosure on the situation at Victoria Jubilee Hospital re the deaths of these babies. In our opinion, too many things have been happening in the health sector that the minister, on the face of it, seems not to be aware of,” Dalley said in a statement.

This is the second time in less than a year, the public health sector has been hit with the sudden deaths of newborn babies. Last year, an outbreak of klebsiella and serratia bacterial infection led to the deaths of several premature babies at two of the island’s major hospitals – the University Hospital of the West Indies and the Cornwall Regional Hospital. The outbreak resulted in 18 of 42 infected newborn babies dying in a three-four-month period. (Adapted from Jamaica Gleaner reports)

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