While gathered at the hospital’s pediatric ward to celebrate new life, thoughts inevitably turned to the thirteen babies who died in a three-week period in May at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). The culprit was an outbreak of the bacteria enterobacter cloacae, which is officially blamed for eight of the deaths, but the report delivered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), while it found numerous instances of mismanagement and oversight in hospital practices, found no human beings responsible for the deaths of the little ones. It’s a stain on the hospital’s reputation, but CEO Dr. Gary Longsworth today drew a line between those deaths and regular births, at which the hospital was particularly successful in 2013.
“First, I have to make the point that those babies were premature babies at very high risk to begin with. The infectious outbreak only multiplied the risk. So, they were very unfortunate at the start of their lives. These babies, with the normal deliveries, we don’t have those concerns”. Last year, we did 1,789 deliveries in this hospital of which 813 were C-sections. Our survival rates were extremely high, the 90% percentile. This last year, in fact, Belize celebrated another year of zero maternal mortality. That’s the second time in the last three to four years in which we have been able to do that. It is not because of no difficulties.
Dr. Longsworth also addressed improvements to the existing NICU and its temporary replacement.
Dr. Gary Longsworth: “Oh, we are doing a lot in that area. We had publicized the report which had a number of recommendations. We have implemented about 90% of those completely. So, 100% implementations of the majority of those recommendations. We still have things to do. We have set up a temporary NICU in the pediatric ward, and that has been doing excellently. In October, we had zero mortality in that unit and the mortality has been below average for most of the time since we have been there. You heard some hammering over there; we are in the process of expanding and renovating the original ICU”.
The grand project for a dedicated NICU and pediatric ward also continues. Dr. Longsworth also had some advice for mothers-to-be to avoid prematurity.
Dr. Gary Longsworth: “It is kind of strange, but the temporary NICU actually has greater capacity than the original one had. We did not plan it that way, but when we mopped out the space and we set it up, we have been handling on average of about 15-16 babies a month. That’s quite a capacity. Sometimes it goes down as low as 8 or 10 for the month, but in general, we are handling a lot of premature babies with problems and may of them with problems that result from ante-natal issues. Many mothers don’t come for screening early enough or many mothers-to-be don’t attend ante-natal clinics and one of the major contributors to prematurity is maternal infections, and one of the commonest maternal infections that affects newborns is urinary tract infections which is in fact very simple and easy to treat. But if it is not treated, it can lead to dior problems”.