Inquiry into deaths

THE World Health Organization will carry out an investigation into the recent deaths of four babies at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital in Suva from a suspected bacterial infection.

An investigator from WHO will arrive in the country tomorrow to look into the recent deaths after the second outbreak this year of acinetobacter baumannii, a drug resistant bacterium labelled by the WHO as top on the world’s list of 12 deadliest bacteria.

This is the first time that WHO is sending someone to look into the matter.

CWM Hospital’s acting medical superintendent Dr James Fong said the ministry would meet WHO officials today to brief them on the situation.

The four babies reportedly died between May 24 and June 15 at the CWM Hospital’s Newborn Intensive Care Unit.

“There’s a bigger team that the WHO has already appointed to come and look through the whole matter,” Dr Fong said.

“They will be looking through the whole system and also look at our infection control measures and reviewing ways and means that we can reduce the risk of the bug contaminating people who are sick,” said Dr Fong.

A similar outbreak occurred between the last quarter of 2016 and early this year also at CWM Hospital’s NICU ward, forcing its closure for a few weeks before it re-opened for admission.

Dr Fong said the quarantine process at NICU was ongoing and there has not been any other admission since the detection of the outbreak.

“In fact, as I speak, the area that we are speaking about is still under quarantine and nobody is under it,” he said.

“It is still an empty space while it undergoes cleaning and further cleaning so that it is safe enough for us to use.”

Meanwhile, in March this year, the Acinetobacter baumannii bacteria was listed by the WHO as number one on a priority critical list of bacteria for which new antibiotics were urgently needed.

The list which was published on March 27 stated the bacteria and others have built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment and can pass along genetic material that allows other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well.

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