Gov’t strengthens healthcare delivery at three hospitals - Tufton
Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton (right), converses with Chief Medical Officer (CMO), Dr Jacquiline Bisasor-McKenzie, during a forum on Tuesday (January 24), at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St. Andrew. (Photo: JIS)

KINGSTON, Jamaica - The Government says it has taken steps to strengthen healthcare delivery at three hospitals that provide care for newborns, including measures to ensure greater compliance with the recommended standards for staffing and infection prevention and control.

The measures were highlighted by Minister of Health and Wellness Dr Christopher Tufton, at a forum on Tuesday, to share the main findings of a review of the special care nurseries at Victoria Jubilee Hospital, Bustamante Hospital for Children and the Spanish Town Hospital.

The review, undertaken by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), comes from a technical mission carried out between October 14 and 22, 2022 and details the rapid assessments of infection prevention and control in the nurseries at the targeted facilities.

Speaking at the briefing held at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in St Andrew, Dr Tufton said that the PAHO report, which the ministry received on Thursday, January 19, mirrors the results of the internal investigations done at the facilities and the regional level.

These investigations, he noted, showed, among other things, “low staff-to-patient ratios and non-compliance with some infection prevention and control protocols. This includes inadequate separation between infants, and gowns used for contact precautions worn from one patient to another”.

The ministry implemented measures to safeguard life and health at the three facilities, including improving sterilisation, cleaning and disinfection, monitoring/auditing of infection prevention and control practices; and undertaking an assessment of staffing levels.

Dr Tufton said that in keeping with advice by the ministry team and PAHO, quarterly audits will be done at the health facilities.

He noted that the frequent monitoring will enable earlier detection, allowing for intervention to decrease morbidity and mortality resulting from issues such as bacterial infection, which impacted the Victoria Jubilee Hospital in 2022.

The minister noted, further, that an agreement has been reached with the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service to boost the cadre of specialised health staff at medical institutions.

“This is an effort to strengthen the overall health system to deal with matters, including overcrowding and other issues,” he said.

Dr Tufton noted that while the bacterial infection affected Victoria Jubilee, the PAHO team also examined the other named institutions.

He said that the Ministry “regrets that the circumstances were created”, which claimed the lives of babies at the institution.

“We have to learn the lessons from these circumstances to avoid a recurrence of them. We have to take that extra care, to recognise the importance of gown-changing, protection gears, and other control and prevention measures,” the Minister added.

Dr Tufton noted, further, that “to the extent possible” adjustments will be made to move the staff complement towards achieving the World Health Organization (WHO) standard of one nurse to one to two babies for newborns receiving intensive care, and one nurse to three babies for newborns receiving intermediate care.

The Ministry of Health in a statement said “there is to be ongoing collaboration with PAHO to, among other things, support advanced training for Infection Prevention and Control focal points; and design targeted Healthcare-Associated Infections Surveillance programmes that are consistent with services provided in in-patient facilities”.

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