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Health Check | Western worries - Infection control weaknesses continue to hurt Cornwall Regional

Published:Wednesday | December 20, 2017 | 12:00 AM
The Cornwall Regional Hospital in St James.


In 2015, then Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson, in response to several concerns raised about the status of public health facilities, ordered an internal audit on the four regional health authorities to "determine safety and functionality of the systems". Two years later, The Gleaner has sought to find out what has been done to address the myriad problems uncovered by the audit. These are some of the findings from the Western Regional Health Authority.

While there has been general improvement in the operation of several high-risk clinical service-delivery areas at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, following adverse audit findings two years ago, deficiencies identified then in the infection control system in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) remain.

According to information compiled by the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), the seven-bed ICU is currently closed "due to air quality issues".

In its place, a three-bed unit is currently being operated from the neighbouring Falmouth Hospital. The June 2015 audit, conducted by the WRHA, found the unit "operating four and, on occasions, five beds due to equipment and staffing challenges".

The audit team also expressed concerns, at the time, that the ICU "was not in close proximity to the accident and emergency Services" and that the air-conditioning system was not functioning optimally.

With the current air quality issues, the ICU is not on the same compound with the Accident and Emergency Department and patients are now being transported from the hospital building to the ICU by ambulance0.

As the situation was two years ago, the ICU currently has minimal access to microbiology laboratory services and no portable echocardiography or MRI services are available.

In addition, no microbiologist is currently employed to the WRHA, despite the audit finding in 2015 that the absence of microbiologists resulted in "inadequate infection control surveillance and the expert would be required in the routine care of the patients admitted to the ICU".

The WRHA points to "some improvement" in the supply of equipment for the monitoring and support of vital organs, which were deficient at the time of the audit two years ago.