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Ministry of Health Assists Investigation of Newborn Deaths at City Hospital

Ministry of Health supports KHMH investigation -Belmopan. May 21, 2013.

After hearing the news on Monday, May 20, 2013, about the neonatal deaths at the Karl Huesner Memorial Hospital (KHMH), the Ministry of Health immediately contacted the Board of Directors of the KHMH to offer to place the full resources of the Ministry of Health at their disposal to rapidly resolve this tragic situation.

On Tuesday, May 21, 2013, the Director of Maternal and Child Health, the National Epidemiologist and an Infection Control Expert of the Ministry of Health met with key personnel of KHMH to implement specific measures to control this dangerous infection.

Additionally, the Pan American Health Organization has been contacted and has offered technical support. It is recognized that neonates are of very high risk due to their gestational age which may range from as low as twenty five weeks. We continue to monitor the situation and will work closely with KHMH to keep the public fully informed.

The following is a report from 7News Belize on the Newborn deaths at the KHMH:

12 Newborns Die In May At The KHMH Pediatric Intensive Care Unit

A total of 12 newborns have died at the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit of the KHMH in the first 20 days of May, 2013. It is a frightening statistic that was confirmed by the KHMH in a press release sent an hour ago.

So, what’s causing the deaths? The KHMH Quality Assurance Team is investigating but they say it might be an outbreak of, hospital based infection, which means it was likely carried by careless hospital staff.

The newborns in the pediatric intensive unit are especially vulnerable because all of them were either born premature or with some other serious complication and they do not have the resistance to fight such an infection.

The statement says the unit often operates above 100% capacity – and given the frequently overcrowded conditions, hospital based infections are a constant threat. So, right now the Unit has been shut down. An Air Quality Assessment will be done by an independent contractor, followed by removal and disinfection of all equipment and terminal cleaning of the entire unit. The statement adds that all staff will be swabbed to identify possible carriers. The unit will remain closed until the hospital has determined that it is safe to resume operations.

And while that is the technical side, we are left with the staggering, stunning statistic: 12 newborn deaths in 20 days. The KHMH reports that one died within two days of birth, and the other 11 died within 7 – 27 days of birth. The statement does not say how many deaths are recorded in an average month – but it does say, quote, “This constitutes an unusually high incidence.” For context we should note that the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit is reserved for high-risk newborns.

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