Investigation into death of 12 babies continues

This afternoon the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital Authority called a press conference to provide latest updates into its investigation into the deaths of 12 premature newborn infants in its special intensive care unit in the month of May. Medical Chief of Staff Dr. Adrian Coye confirmed that five of the deaths were caused by complications of prematurity; the remaining seven, the investigation so far has confirmed, were caused by a bacteria known as Enterobacter cloacae, a member of a family of bacterial pathogens which include salmonella, shigella and E. coli. This bacteria is fairly common but becomes an “opportunistic infection” when invading hospital rooms. It has been known to kill a roomful of babies in one fell swoop, but is treatable with antibiotics. In this case the bacteria is under control but Dr. Coye noted that there always remains a threat. The hospital’s CEO Dr. Gary Longsworth noted that conditions in the room were as clean as possible with recently installed air conditioning and regular ventilation and water testing, resulting in a clean bill of health. He noted that renovations were being planned to the area and the unit has been shut down for a minimum 2 weeks to a month for these renovations to take place. As regards the progress of the investigation, chair of the KHMH Board Chandra Nisbet Cansino reported that after preliminary findings on the cases were presented by an epidemiologist and infection control specialist, families of the victims met with authorities and reported their cases. However, she noted that not all the important reports and meetings with staff had been concluded and until then there is no way to know who may have been responsible for any lapses in communication or treatment inside the PICU. The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) has offered its assistance. Dr. Coye said that for the time being services for premature newborns have been moved elsewhere in the hospital and parents should not be afraid to come for treatment here. Dr. Longsworth cited statistics that stated that the hospital’s rates of death in this ward were between 5 and 15% on an annual basis.

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