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The Special Envoy for Women and Children would like to express condolences to all the parents and families of the new-borns who passed away as a result of an infection outbreak at the Karl Heusner Memorial Hospital. The news of 12 neonatal deaths recorded at the Neonatal lntensive Care Unit (NICU) during the month of May alone is both tragic and alarming.

While the KHMH has launched an investigation and is taking steps to prevent further spreading of the infection; it is sad that so many premature babies, who are more susceptible to infections and complications, lost their lives before the outbreak was detected.

However, as stated in the press release issued by the KHMH, infections are a constant threat in the NICU, which is small and often overcrowded. The unit is clearly in need of expansion, additional staff and proper equipment. Recognizing those needs, the office of the Special Envoy for Women and Children is spearheading the construction of a suitable Paediatric and Neonatal Intensive Unit at the KHMH.

The unit will be in a new wing of the hospital and my hope is to address the issues of inadequate infrastructure and equipment while additional staff will improve the overall services to children and new-borns in need of critical care. The current situation at the KHMH amplifies my determination to make this upgraded unit a reality.

Enterobacter cloacae killed 7 of 12 infants at K.H.M.H. (News Source: Channel 5 Belize)

The killer of seven of these infants is called enterobacter cloacae. After a meeting with three of the mothers who lost their babies to the bacteria, the Chair of the K.H.M.H. Board of Governors, Chandra Cansino, joined by the hospital’s C.E.O., Francis Gary Longsworth, and Director of Medical Services, Adrian Coye for a media briefing.

Dr. Adrian Coye, Director of Medical Services, K.H.M.H explained about the case:

“We have seen an outbreak of a particular organism, enterobacter cloacae and this organism is not only selecting our Belizean babies, but it is an organism that is responsible for major outbreaks in NICU’s all over the world. In that light, this is part of why we see that even PAHO Washington is sending us assistance; to see and help us analyze the outbreak that we have because it is matching a global trend,” Stated Dr. Adria Coye.

He continued, “We had initially released there were twelve deaths this month which is unusual because the month is not yet done. And twelve deaths that happened were the majority were happening precipitously in the last week. And so this form of outbreak raised alarm bells; adjustments were being made clinically and within the unit, some procedural changes. But in spite of that, we had the high number of tragic loss as alarming as it is and as unfortunate for all because it is very sad for us to see and witness that amount of loss. However of the twelve deaths, only seven have been shown in our analysis to be positive for this organism out of the twelve.So in fact, the initial impression was that all of them had this organism but in fact only seven of them. And so the other deaths happened as a result of prematurity-related issues and not related to this infection. This is not a superbug. The profile of the resistance pattern within the organism we have found is sensitive to antibiotics that we do have in the hospital and made available through the Ministry of Health. So it is not a superbug. But the problem with this type of organism is its very fastidious, difficult to clear and there is transmission by direct contact and also by indirect contact. So it can be on the skin of any of us right now in this room, on your clothing material, on stethoscopes, on IV drip stands, the surfaces in the clinical area, etc. And that is again to show you how ubiquitous; all over the place the bugs can be a source. We are implementing an aggressive approach to determining if there is actually an environmental source. So we’ve actually brought in a specialist for the purpose of studying all aspects of our ventilation and all other areas within the unit that can be a source for continued colonization because that is exactly what this organism behaves as—it is an opportunistic infection.”

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