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23 babies die in SAT Hospital in a month

MUTE WITNESS: The statue in front of the SAT Hospital.

MUTE WITNESS: The statue in front of the SAT Hospital.  

C. Maya

`Deaths caused by hospital-acquired infection'

Thiruvananthapuram: At least 23 babies who were admitted to the neonatology unit of the Sree Avittam Tirunal (SAT) Hospital here died last month because of hospital-acquired infection, while many more could be remaining infected.

There were 35 deaths at the unit in April. But 23 deaths were microbiologically confirmed as due to infections caused by the presence of multi-drug resistant (MDR) strains of bacteria. There could be more cases of infection or deaths as last week's blood-culture results were awaited.

Hospital sources said on Tuesday that the organisms that were isolated in the blood-sample cultures of babies MDR Klebsiella, Methicillin- Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA), Acinetobacter and Enterococci could hardly come from the community and that these were cases of hospital infections.

Over-crowded and unhygienic conditions in the labour rooms, gynaecology wards and lack of cleanliness inside the neonatal intensive care units could be responsible for the outbreak.

The outbreak of infection was noticed by the hospital authorities when the rate of neonatal mortality at the hospital, which used to be around 9 per cent, suddenly shot up in the last three months.

According to doctors, neonatal mortality at the hospital had always been around 7 to 11 cases every month and most of these were due to natural causes such as heart or respiratory problems. However, the number of deaths shot up to 23 and 27 in the past months, when an outbreak was suspected.

The authorities swung into action when about 275 babies were admitted in the neonatal unit with sepsis (infection) in the month of April alone.

Blood samples of all admissions began to be sent for microbial analysis and the high number of culture-positive cases confirmed the infection outbreak.

Doctors pointed out that there was never such a cluster of MRSA or MDR Klebsiella cases in the hospital's history.

The hospital authorities said that there was an acute shortage of cleaning staff in the hospital for quite some time and that all attempts to hire staff from outside were thwarted by the hospital workers' unions by obtaining restraining orders from courts.

Remedial action was launched and directives were issued to hospital staff to sterilise the labour rooms and neonatal ICUs using anti-microbial agents. However, controlling the infection could be a mean task, given the scale of the outbreak.

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