Tue | Aug 22, 2017

Deadly shift! - Night deliveries at Jubilee prove lethal for babies!

Published:Sunday | October 30, 2016 | 10:00 AMErica Virtue
Dr Christopher Tufton, minister of health.

The four babies the Ministry of Health acknowledged to have died recently at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH), after being infected during an outbreak of Group B Streptococcus (GBS), were delivered on the night shift at the facility.

After The Sunday Gleaner broke the story on October 9 of the tragic deaths of the newborns, Health Minister Dr Christopher Tufton ordered an investigation into the incident.

Four days later, the minister and a team of health officials presented findings at a press conference, stating that four babies died from eight who were infected with GBS transferred from mother to child during vaginal delivery.

However, a report prepared by VJH officials on the situation at the hospital, and made available to the committee Tufton had convened to carry out the investigation, stated that 26 babies had in fact died over a two-month period (August and September). This represents an approximate 550 per cent increase from what the Tufton committee reported.

In providing details on all the cases, the VJH report raised concerns about the ratio of staff to patient, in relation to the gravely ill neonates and their subsequent deaths. According to the reports, practically all the infant mortality cases occurred on the night shift.

The descriptive profile presented by officials at the health ministry's October 13 press conference was identical to some of those presented in the VJH report, a copy of which The Sunday Gleaner obtained.

For example, the Ministry of Health (MOH) report stated one baby born on September 11 died two days later on the 13th. The baby was born at term at 11:55 p.m. A second child was delivered at 34 weeks on September 12 at 12:16 a.m. That child lived for seven hours.

The MOH information referenced a third baby delivered on the 15th of the month, and a fourth who was delivered on the 19th September and died on the 20th. In the VJH report, it stated that a child was born on the 19th and died on the 21st. That child was delivered at 11:38 p.m., and another delivered on September 20 at 2:52 a.m. and pronounced dead at 9:45 a.m.

One of the surviving children, according to the VJH report, was a baby delivered on the 15th of September at 11:38 p.m. at 40 weeks. Both mother and baby were discharged four days later on the 19th.

It was unclear from the list of profiles presented by the MOH which was the surviving child. Also, the MOH did not provide any information on the additional surviving children.

The Sunday Gleaner was told that a chronic shortage of nurses at all public hospitals, including VJH, has impacted the ratio of neonates to nursing professionals.

The source said that many of the nurses were rotating nurses, "doing sessions" and "very few permanent staff available for night duties at the hospital". It was also explained that many of the senior and experienced staff work the day shifts.

"I am sure that if there was a way to split the experienced day shift in two, putting some on the night shift with the young doctors and nurses, more infants born on the night shift would be saved," explained a source close to the hospital.

erica.virtue@gleanerjm.com