Infection control ‘police’ nurse for hospitals
Five critical areas of Jamaica's public hospitals have been earmarked for special policing to minimise the risk of dangerous infection-causing organisms running unfettered. This comes in the wake of the deaths of newborn babies at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) last month who contracted an infection from their mothers during delivery.
This decision, which forms part of the recommendations of a four-man committee set up by Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton to investigate the source(s) of the infection of the newborns and make recommendations to the ministry, will see a specialist nurse policing these five critical areas of the hospital to ensure sanitary control.
"For general infection-prevention control, we have such committees in most hospitals. Some are more active than others. On these committees, you also have an infection-control nurse, whose responsibility it is to look beyond what the ordinary nurse does. It's a specialist nurse, especially in the MONIA areas, who will almost police the practices in these areas," according to Dr Lundie Richards, head of Health Service Planning and Integration in the Ministry of Health.
The MONIA areas, according to Richards, are maternity, operating theatre, neonatal, intensive care unit, and accident and emergency.
"These five areas are critical, high-risk areas. And this infection-control nurse will carry out spot checks; police the areas with a tool and not only look at all the practices that are going on, but make enquiries," Richards explained.
He said measurement tools are already in place within the committees (which comprise other health professionals), however, in light of the recent newborn deaths, the ministry will be making greater efforts to strengthen the committees.
This recommendation is among one of six contained in the committee's report to the minister.
Other recommendations include the establishment of protocols, which speak to all patients in premature labour and running a fever while in labour to be swabbed and antibiotic treatment appropriately given; also, the protocol for administering antibiotic prophylaxis to patients with prolonged rupture of membrane for greater than 18 hours to be changed to 12 hours. The infection-control team should also monitor to ensure that the health ministry's infection control audit instrument, as a check list/monitoring tool, be strictly adhered to on a monthly basis and carry out the appropriate procedures for routine cleaning. And, finally, ensure that the protocol for counselling and psychological support for mothers with neonatal deaths be adhered to.
BECOME MORE CONSCIOUS
"We have to become conscious of the way we do things. For example, in the hospitals, the nurses, the patients, the doctors, and the porters all have a responsibility. Simple things like washing hands every time you move from patient to patient. How often do we regularly practise hand washing? It is just one of the many things that the infection-control personnel will look for to make sure that those practices are adhered to," Richards told The Gleaner.
The Ministry of Health's new, strict protocols come against a story in last Sunday's Gleaner, which reported the deaths of babies born at the maternal health facility,.
Four babies died from septic shock within 24 hours of being delivered another four were treated and have recovered.
This comes just over a year following the deaths of 18 babies at two of the island's major public hospitals, which forced the reassignment of then health minister Dr Fenton Ferguson.
Upon learning of the recent tragedy, Tufton gave the committee a week to provide a report, which was made available at a press conference at the minister's office in New Kingston, St Andrew, yesterday.