By CHESTER ROBARDS
Tribune Senior Reporter
FOUR adults and one child in the General Intensive Care Unit of the Princess Margaret Hospital have contracted the same bacteria that killed two premature babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, as concerns grow that the bacteria could spread to more wards within the hospital.
Health Minister Dr Perry Gomez, after being mum about the outbreak since it was announced by the Public Hospitals Authority last Friday, confirmed yesterday that the outbreak of the Acinetobacter Baumannii, had spread from the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) to the General Intensive Care Unit (GICU) of the Princess Margaret Hospital (PMH).
Hospital administration held a press conference Tuesday to inform the public that the bacteria had been detected within the NICU and that it had caused the deaths of two babies. However, it wanted to assure the public that it was unlikely that it would spread to other wards within the hospital.
“In terms of this infection going to spread ward to ward, and we have a hospital full of people with Acinetobacter, I think that is highly unlikely to happen,” said the hospital’s Medical Chief of Staff, Dr Geoffrey Pennerman, during Tuesday’s press conference.
However, sources, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisal, told The Tribune Wednesday that top officials at PMH knew the bacterium Acinetobacter Baumannii had already spread to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU), even as they held Tuesday’s press conference.
“We’re tired of the lies,” the sources said.
Speaking from the floor of the House of Assembly yesterday, Dr. Gomez revealed that the bacterium Acinetobacter Baumannii had in fact spread to the GICU and that four adults and one child had tested positive for it. However, none of them has suffered any ill effects, he said.
“As of yesterday five new cases were identified, this time in the General Intensive Care Unit,” said Dr. Gomez. “None of them is ill.”
The Acinetobacter Baumannii severely affects those with compromised immune systems, which is why two premature babies within the NICU died of the bacteria, according to doctors at PMH.
In 1996 an outbreak of the same bacteria caused the deaths of nine babies at PMH.
Dr Gomez said that after the 1996 outbreak protocols were implemented to prevent any recurrence of the bacteria.
Dr Gomez also revealed in the House that a report by the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) released in June of this year “identified a number of offending practices” with regard to those protocols.
“The (PAHO) report indicated that some of the corrective actions suggested as a result of the 1996 findings were systematically terminated,” he said.
Dr. Gomez said his ministry has enlisted the help of former Chief of Infectious Diseases at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, Canada, Professor Stan Read, who enlisted the help of the Public Health Agency of Canada and PAHO, to assist in eradicating the bacteria at PMH.
“We wish to assure the public, Mr Speaker, that everything is being done to protect the patients and users of the Princess Margaret Hospital from further harm,” said Dr. Gomez.
“We also wish to inform this House (of Assembly) that under this administration no shortcuts and no whittling away of essential protocols and procedures for infection control will be allowed. Not under my watch, Mr. Speaker,” he said.