Employ active screening for mothers to prevent death
Dr Charles Rockhead, obstetrician/gynaecologist, is strongly recommending that active screening for all mothers is employed to prevent deaths that could result from sepsis.
Sepsis is a potentially deadly condition that occurs when certain bacteria, fungi or parasites attack critical organs in newborns.
Sources told this newspaper that seven babies have died in the past three months from the bacteria, at the island's leading maternity hospital, the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) in Kingston. There are reports, however, that the number of deaths is much higher.
He explained that based on his research following the story which was published in The Sunday Gleaner, the problem was caused by a type of sepsis known as Group B Streptococcus (GBS). He said that though screening would be costly, it could be a possible solution going forward, but quickly pointed out that it had nothing to do with hygienic problems at the hospital or with the mothers.
"That would be an epidemiology issue and policy change. When you look at the cost, you will have to be training every midwife, every intern, every doctor that at 37 weeks, you do a high vaginal swab. Then there is a cost for the swab, cost for the laboratory. There will be antecedent cost which would be the antibiotics," he said.
"GBS, that is the cause of the problem that they (VJH) are having. The issue with GBS is not that it is caused from poor maternity care in the sense that the bacteria lives in the vagina of some women," he continued.
He said once consistent treatment is applied, there could be a significant reduction in the early onset of GBS.
"The GBS colonises the vagina or the genital tract in some women, if you don't screen for it. When the baby passes through the genital tract of the women, it then picks up the bacteria," he told The Gleaner.
"The newborn is relatively immuno-compromised and has not been exposed to any bacteria while in the nocturnal uterus, that's where the sepsis comes from in these neonates. It's very important that we do active screening for mothers," he charged.
"The vagina to the anus is about an inch so it's not a matter of poor hygiene on the mother or poor hygiene at the hospital, that's not the issue," said Rockhead.