Jamaica awaits PAHO report on hospital-acquired infections

Jamaica’s Ministry of Health and Wellness is awaiting the Pan American Health Organization’s (PAHO) final report on the cluster of Klebsiella pneumoniae infections discovered at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital (VJH) in Kingston.

Health Minister Christopher Tufton announced this during Tuesday’s House of Representatives session (November 1).

Klebsiella pneumoniae is responsible for a substantial proportion of hospital-acquired illnesses. These include pneumonia and soft-tissue infections, particularly in vulnerable patients such as newborns and neonates.

In July 2022, the Southeast Regional Health Authority (SERHA) found a bacterial infection at VJH, triggering an emergency inquiry and Ministry notification, according to Dr. Tufton.

He added that the examination uncovered a high patient-to-staff ratio and noncompliance with certain infection-prevention and control (IPC) measures.

The Minister said that a team from VJH, along with employees from SERHA, the Kingston and St. Andrew Health Department, the National Public Health Laboratory, and the Ministry’s IPC team, subsequently established a plan to resolve the identified deficiencies.

This plan, as outlined by Dr Tufton, consisted of cohorting confirmed and suspected cases, with new admissions being placed in a separate area; activation of the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC) to evaluate the circumstances surrounding the increase in cases and oversee the appropriate interventions to resolve the situation; increased surveillance to identify trends and patterns in incidence on the unit; and redeployment of clinical officers to provide support for the unit as demand increased.

The plan also includes coordination of swabbing and urgent deep-cleaning activities under the supervision of the local health department; evaluation of routine cleaning protocols and implementation of supervised cleaning and disinfecting activities; and retraining of team members in IPC protocols along with close, direct supervision by the charge nurse and IPC team on the unit.

“Towards the end of August, I was briefed on the situation at VJH by the Ministry of Health and Wellness team. By then, the efforts appeared to have been working, with a decline in deaths. There were two deaths in August, two in September, coming from seven in July. There were no deaths in October,” Dr Tufton said.

The Minister went on to say, “Out of an abundance of caution, I instructed the team to invite the Pan American Health Organization, with whom we have an ongoing partnership, and request that they examine the specific situation or conduct a sort of independent evaluation of what may have been the issues.”

Dr Tufton stated that it was also requested that the organization be invited to audit other hospitals, such as the Spanish Town and Bustamante Hospitals, adding, “I am currently awaiting PAHO’s final report.”

In the meantime, the Minister has extended his condolences to the families and loved ones of the infants who have succumbed to Klebsiella pneumoniae infections.

The loss of life, he stated, is tragic and awful and must never be minimized, trivialized, or politicized.

Dr Tufton stated, “I would also like to recognize the health team at VJH for their continued efforts to complete remediation procedures at the hospital in response to the cluster of cases.”

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