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No evidence babies’ deaths caused by germ – Dr Keizer-Beache

No evidence babies’ deaths caused by germ – Dr Keizer-Beache


There is nothing to suggest that the recent deaths of a number of premature babies at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital’s (MCMH) Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) was caused by a germ. So said the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment in a release issued on Saturday, November 5.{{more}}

Last Friday, November 4, this publication reported, in a front page article, that over a one-week period, some five babies housed at the NICU died. The article stated that the parents of two of these infants (two mothers and a father) felt that a germ was introduced to the NICU by a baby that was rescued from a latrine pit in Fitz-Hughes on Wednesday, September 14.

But according to a Ministry of Health release entitled, “Statement on the Death of New-born Children at the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital”, all of the babies who died were premature and had a number of serious health issues.

In an interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Saturday, chief medical officer (CMO) Dr Simone Keizer-Beache said that the recent deaths which took place over a 10-day period is nothing more than an unfortunate coincidence.

“This is the reality and looking at the facts, it’s a very sad thing,” said the CMO.

Dr Keizer-Beache said that while it is a fact that these babies died after the Fitz-Hughes baby was introduced to the NICU, they did not die because of the spread of a germ, but because of various issues associated with their premature births.

“When we look at the cases, all of the children had significant problems from the beginning. They were premature, so that already puts them in a category of being at risk,” said the physician, who added that the short space of time these children lived tells us that these children must have been quite ill at the time of birth.

She said that at times, babies housed at the NICU do extremely well, but there is always the risk that they could get sick because of the fact that they were born with an underdeveloped immune system.

“We all have bacteria living in us and if your immune system is weakened, your own bacteria can kill you. When a baby is born, the immune system is immature,” explained Dr Keizer-Beache, who noted that premature babies are more at risk of succumbing to bacteria or becoming septic.

She said that there have been situations at the MCMH where the utmost precautions were taken and babies still got sick.

“The babies with challenges turned up at the same time as the Fitz-Hughes baby,” stressed Dr Keizer-Beache, who noted also that at the MCMH, the medical staff usually try to save premature babies younger than 28 weeks old, while other countries usually do not try unless the child is more than 28 weeks.

“We are trying with children that would be terminated in other countries and trying with smaller babies, so the outcomes would be more and more challenging. Below 28 weeks, we going to get more challenges,” she emphasized.

Dr Keizer-Beache said that autopsies were carried out on all the children who died, but it is against the policy of the MCMH to give out personal medical information.

The November 4 article noted that a parent had overheard a nurse objecting to the Fitz-Hughes baby being introduced to the unit.

Dr Keizer-Beache said that in years gone by, a baby born outside the MCMH would never have been brought into the NICU, but now, with the modernization of the unit and the fact that all the children in the NICU are in their own incubators, that has changed.

“…a baby brought into the NICU is in a closed environment in the incubator, so that policy is no longer in place because each child is in its own incubator,” said the CMO.

She stressed that the risk of introducing a child and that child spreading a germ is very low.

While it was initially reported that five babies died, further investigations reveal that it was actually seven babies that died in a 10-day period.

Three of these babies died 24 hours after birth, one died a few hours after birth, while one died after five days. The Fitz-Hughes baby lived from September 14 to September 18, while another child died after living for a little over a month.

One of the parents of one of the dead babies told SEARCHLIGHT that after the babies died, they were told by a doctor that the rescued baby left an infection in the NICU and that is what killed the children.

Premature birth is a very serious health problem. Worldwide, 15 million babies are born pre-term and more than a million die as a result. Babies who survive often have lifelong health problems, such as cerebral palsy, vision and hearing loss, and intellectual disabilities.

The deaths at the MCMH come just days before the celebration of World Prematurity Day, which is observed on November 17 each year.

World Prematurity Day aims to raise awareness about the issues associated with pre-term birth. It also spreads information about how to help and support affected families.