The Ministry of Health on Saturday confirmed that five new-born babies died during a short period at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) of the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital (MCMH).
The ministry, however, denied their death resulted from a germ spread from a baby rescued from a latrine in September, as a newspaper claimed on Friday.
On Sept. 14, a newborn baby was rescued from a latrine pit in Fitz-Hughes and was taken to the MCMH, where he died on Sept. 18.
Four other babies also died in about a week after the rescued baby was admitted to the hospital — which hospital has one of the lowest infant mortality rates in the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
The ministry said it would be a breach of confidentiality to publish patient-specific information. It, however, said the public should bear in mind that a newborn baby is only sent to the NICU in the first place if that child is born prematurely or has some other life-threatening medical condition.
“Despite the best efforts of medical professionals, some of these children are unfortunately lost for various reasons. A premature child may die as a result of: infections contracted in the womb, abnormal development of the baby’s organs and other reasons or complications,” the statement said.
The ministry said the MCMH has made significant strides in paediatric care in the past few years and will “continue to do everything possible to protect and safeguard the lives of our youngest citizens.
“The goal is to push the child mortality rates to as close to zero as possible by an adherence to best practices. Each child in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit is kept isolated in an incubator and managed with dedicated instruments. Hand washing, established as one of the most effective ways of reducing cross infections, is strongly enforced.
“The staff of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit and the Paediatric Ward more generally follows the highest standards and most rigorous protocols on infection control. This staff receives extensive on-going training on techniques and measures that can help improve the survival chances of premature babies.”
The ministry said that every month, there is a detailed review on the babies that received neonatal intensive care.
It said that in early 2017, St. Vincent and the Grenadines will host its 21st annual Perinatal Mortality Conference “and thereby subject itself, as usual, to the assessment and advice of external perinatal experts.
“The dedication to saving babies is reflected in the country’s low infant mortality rates. However, the management and staff of the MCMH mourn the loss of even one life.”
The statement said that the hospital “remains committed to providing the best possible quality of healthcare to all patients, including newborns”.