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Lack of blood led to babies’ deaths, says Calvin G. Brown

Published:Thursday | November 26, 2015 | 12:43 PMChristopher Thomas
Calvin G. Brown, outgoing chairman of the Western Regional Health Authority.

Former chairman of the Western Regional Health Authority (WRHA), Calvin G. Brown, is shedding more light on the circumstances surrounding the deaths of four premature babies that died at the Cornwall Regional Hospital (CRH).

Brown, who was replaced as chairman of the WRHA in the aftermath of the controversy surrounding the deaths of the babies, said it was a lack of blood platelets, not unsanitary conditions in the hospital's neonatal ward that led to the deaths of four premature babies.

"If we had blood platelets at the hospital, chances are the babies could have been saved. there were others who were saved because we had sufficient platelets, and when we sent to Kingston, the blood bank did not have any, and as a result four of those babies died. It was not as a result of unsanitary conditions," Brown told The Gleaner earlier this week.


CRH and University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) suffered outbreaks of klebsiella and serratia bacteria, which led to 42 premature babies being infected, of which 19 subsequently died. The resulting outcry over what has since been called the 'dead-baby scandal' prompted the reassignment of former health minister, Dr Fenton Ferguson .

Speaking to the various issues at CRH, Brown argued that the number of surgeries performed daily at the hospital resulted in a significant reduction in the hospital's blood supply. According to him, if there was adequate blood supply, it could have resulted in fewer babies dying.

"One of the reasons why we do not have blood platelets, is because of the many shootings and accidents we have been having, because of all the operations that we have had to perform, it depletes the amount of blood that we have at the hospital," said Brown. On average, we are doing 25 to 30 surgeries a day, so we did not have sufficient blood."

"In effect, we might only have had two deaths because of other complications that were involved, if we had had the resources," continued Brown.

"We are well within the international laws at CRH, and well below the one per cent of standard world practice, in terms of neonatal deaths. I do not want anyone to demonise our hard-working medical and nursing staff, because they have tried their best under trying circumstances."

There were four outbreaks of klebsiella and serratia over a five-month period at UHWI and CRH, beginning in June. Following the scandal, newly-appointed health minister, Horace Dalley, called for the resignations of both hospital's boards.