KINGSTON –– The Ministry of Health has confirmed reports about an outbreak of antibiotic-resistant bacteria at the Bustamante Hospital for Children which occurred in July.
At a Press conference at Jamaica House yesterday, Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Marion Bullock-Ducasse said the outbreak of methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) had occurred in the intensive care unit at the paediatric hospital but was not extensive.
“. . . There were three cases in that outbreak [in] patients who had been in the unit for months. All of the appropriate measures were taken, and the containment was achieved,” she told journalists. The CMO said, however, that there was no outbreak in the special care nursery at the children’s hospital.
MRSA is a strain of bacteria that causes infections in different parts of the body and is more difficult to treat than most strains of staph because of its resistance to many widely used antibiotics.
At the same time, Bullock Ducasse said the case of a child with bacterial infection at St Ann’s Bay Hospital was an isolated incident and that the hospital had it under control. “The ministry had immediate dialogue with doctors at the hospital, we requested additional information which was reviewed last evening, and a team from the Ministry of Health head office, including our national epidemiologist, is currently at the hospital conducting an assessment and to ensure that the appropriate recommendations are in place,” she stated.
On Tuesday, Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson told Parliament that one more baby had died from bacterial infection at the Cornwall Regional Hospital, bringing the number of fatalities from the outbreaks, which began in June, to 19 –– eight at the UHWI and 11 at Cornwall Regional. The ministry has now disclosed that, since last week, a total of 45 babies have been infected with hospital-acquired germs at the two institutions.
According to the Ministry of Health, there have been no new infections at the institutions, with the most recent cases at the CRH and the UHWI recorded on October 14 and October 15, respectively.
In the meantime, Dr Bullock-Ducasse said there had been no reported incidents of “clusters of cases” at the Victoria Jubilee Hospital –– the country’s only maternity hospital –– since the start of the year.
“Indeed, for 2015, the only outbreaks that we have seen have been at the CRH and the UHWI,” she stated.
She said outbreaks are supposed to be reported to the ministry “immediately on suspicion and within 24 hours”.
The health minister and his team have been severely criticised over the past two weeks, with public outcry growing louder for those in charge to be sacked over the handling of this latest saga in the public health system.
Meanwhile, the minister of health was last night forced to apologise over a term he used to describe premature babies while responding to questions from the Opposition in Parliament on Tuesday.
Ferguson had inferred that the infants were “not babies in the real sense”, a statement which angered the opposition and the wider public.
“I would never disregard the life of any human being. I simply wanted to convey that premature babies are more susceptible to infections. I am before you not only as the minister of health, but also a father who couldn’t begin to imagine losing my child; and my niece Shelema was born premature, so I personally understand. I want to express my sympathies to the families affected and apologise to them and all Jamaicans,” he said in the one-paragraph statement.