By CHESTER ROBARDS
Tribune Staff Reporter
DOCTORS at the Princess Margaret Hospital still do not know how a bacteria that took the lives of two premature babies, entered the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, the hospital’s Medical Chief of Staff, Dr Geoffrey Pennerman, said yesterday.
Dr Pennerman, who led a press conference at the hospital concerning the dead babies, said he could not say if or when they would be able to determine the cause of the “outbreak.” He said it had been 16 years since the hospital last dealt with the
bacterium Acinetobacter Baumannii.
However, he explained that the babies’ ventilators had been tested for the presence of the bacteria, which came back negative and the air conditioning unit was also tested for the presence of the bacteria, which was inconclusive.
Consultant Neonatologist, Dr. Steve Lochan, said the first baby who had been 16 weeks premature, died from exposure to the bacteria on July 4th, and the second less than two weeks later. Dr Lochan said that it was after the first baby’s death that the workers in the NICU suspected that the Acinetobacter Baumannii was to blame for the death. And only after the second baby died and six others tested positive for the bacteria, did the hospital declare an outbreak.
“All babies in NICU were tested for the infection, with eight testing positive,” said Dr Pennerman.
“Two infants succumbed. The patients involved are premature babies with immature immune systems, which are unable to fight infection.
“The infants testing positive were all critically ill and on a mechanical ventilator.”
After the outbreak was discovered, however, hospital administrators did not find it necessary to inform the public, said Dr Pennerman.
Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez told the media last week that he was not immediately informed of the outbreak.
Dr. Gomez did not attend yesterday’s press conference, and The Tribune was unsuccessful in reaching him by phone.
Dr Pennerman said the NICU has been aggressive in attempting to wipe out the existence of the bacteria. And Dr Lochan explained that of the six remaining babies exposed to the bacteria, only one remains on a ventilator.
According to Dr. Pennerman, Dr Lochan met with the parents of the babies yesterday and ensured them that their babies were “receiving optimum care.”
Acinetobacter enters the body through open wounds, catheters, and breathing tubes. It usually infects those with compromised immune systems, such as the wounded, the elderly, children, or those with immune diseases.
Colonisation (when the bacteria is present on or in the person, but does not cause illness) poses no threat to people not already ill, but colonised health care workers and hospital visitors can carry the bacteria into neighbouring wards and other medical facilities. The number of non-social infections (hospital-acquired infections) caused by A. baumannii has increased in recent years, as have most other nosocomial pathogens.
One of the reasons is that the bacteria can live up to five months on undisturbed surfaces, depending on humidity levels.
Story courtesy of The Tribune