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JM | Jan 24, 2023

Understaffing among deficiencies found by PAHO in report on special care nurseries

Mikala Johnson

Mikala Johnson / Our Today

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From left: Chief Medical Officer Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton and Dunstan Bryan, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Health and Wellness.

The Ministry of Health and Wellness has announced that four major deficiencies have been identified at three of the country’s special care nurseries, following assessment by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie named the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, the Bustamante Hospital for Children, and Spanish Town Hospital as the three public health facilities visited by PAHO during its technical mission last October.

Bisasor-McKenzie was addressing a media briefing at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in St Andrew earlier today (January 24).

CMO Dr Jaquiline Bisasor-McKenzie.

In responding to a report of an outbreak of Klebsiella pneumoniae in the special care nursery at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital, that claimed the lives of 12 newborns during summer of last year, the ministry requested technical assistance from PAHO regarding infection prevention and control (IPC) measures in special care nurseries.

According to Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton, low staff-to-patient ratio was a prominent feature of the ministry’s internal assessment. The PAHO report also showed that understaffing, especially in nursing care, was a common finding at all three hospitals.

The World Health Organization (WHO) standard recommends that there should be one nurse to one to two babies in special care nurseries, however that is not the case in public hospitals across the country.

Minister of Health Dr Christopher Tufton.

“We have attempted to make adjustments where we can move around workers from one place to the next and to move as quickly as possible to achieve the recommended ratios,” the minister said.

In addition, the CMO listed no medication preparation area and inadequate storage of cleaning items among the major findings.

“No medication preparation area where medications are aseptically admixed or fractionated was found and we are working to address that,” Bisasor-McKenzie said.

The report also stated that medications were stored or mixed in patient care areas. It was also revealed that opened medication vials were not dated or labelled.

Victoria Jubilee Hospital in Kingston.

The findings also revealed that there was inadequate separation between infants in the hospitals.

Tufton stated that securing adequate space within the hospitals has been a challenge that the ministry is working to address.

“The cots were too close, which could have enhanced the probability of infections from one to the next. It’s not that we don’t know that the ideal is to have a space gap between cots; the challenge is the space and the demands on the system.”

Important to note also was that, among the four major findings, the report listed several specific findings as well.

Bustamante Hospital for Children in St Andrew.

Meanwhile, the ministry noted that the final report was received from PAHO last Thursday (January 19) and steps have been put in place to take the necessary actions to strengthen its infection prevention and control programme.

Tufton said training and retraining of healthcare workers will be done as a means to prevent and reduce infections in healthcare facilities.

“We have engaged PAHO in ongoing collaboration to, among other things, support advanced training for infection and prevention control, so training will be key.”

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