Sat | Feb 23, 2019

Surveillance system to curb infection spread at UHWI

Published:Thursday | January 24, 2019 | 12:49 AM
Dr Allison Nicholson, head of microbiology and chair of the Infection Control Committee, explains the workings of the newly acquired infection-control surveillance system to (from second left) Daniel Dawes, CEO of the Universal Service Fund (USF); Kwan Wilson, director of projects at the USF; and Dr Carl Bruce, medical chief of staff, the UHWI. They were attending the official handover ceremony at the University Hospital on Wednesday.

The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is banking on its new infection-control surveillance system limiting the spread of disease in healthcare settings that resulted in crises like the dead babies scandal in 2015.

Eight newborns at the UHWI died after being infected by serratia and klebsiella bacteria. Eleven others suffered the same fate at Cornwall Regional Hospital in western Jamaica.

Funded by the Universal Service Fund (USF) to the tune of $31.7 million, the system will facilitate much quicker and accurate assessment and diagnosis of illnesses, in particular, and allows for data capture on infection-control practices.

The system, while not fully rolled out across the UHWI, has led to the full digitisation of the hospital’s Infection Prevention and Control Unit’s data-collection and analysis process.

Speaking to The Gleaner at the official handover of the computers and software at the UHWI yesterday, Dr Allison Nicholson, head of microbiology and chair of the Infection Control Committee, said that previously acquiring test results was a tedious, manual task.

Transmission not uncommon

She noted, too, that the transmission of infectious organisms on hospital wards was not uncommon given the close and frequent interactions of patients and visitors.

“Now, if the results on the system show that patient John Brown is on Ward Two with an organism that is highly infectious, we can put out a quick alert. This will enable them to put precautions in place that would involve screening off the patient, preventing visitors from going in freely, providing clothes that they will put on if they are going to visit the patient, and taking them off and discarding them right away,” she reasoned.

“So we can set that process in motion immediately, and that will cut down on the time that it would take for them to be walking around or interacting with anybody, possibly spreading the infection,” she added.

Meanwhile, chief executive officer at the USF Daniel Dawes pointed out that the agency’s financing of the system forms part of the overarching thrust of the USF to provide technological support across a wide cross section of sectors in a bid to improve efficiency.

“We have seen worldwide how information and communications technology can facilitate development and can assist in achieving targets in education, finance, and health. This system will help the UHWI to more effectively combat outbreaks of infection and disease as it will now have valuable and credible data at its fingertips to inform the decision-making process,” he stated.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com