10 Jul 2017

WHO to investigate deaths of babies at Fiji hospital

12:49 pm on 10 July 2017

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

Hospital gurney

Photo: 123RF

An investigator from the UN body 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 the international health organisation is sending someone to look into the matter.

The 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 24 May and 15 June at the hospital's Newborn Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

"There's a bigger team that the WHO has already appointed to come and look through the whole matter," Dr Fong told the Fiji Times.

"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 the hospital's neonatal intensive care unit ward, forcing its closure for a few weeks before it re-opened for admission.

Dr Fong told Fiji Times the quarantine process at NICU was ongoing and there had 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."

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

The list stated the bacteria and others had built-in abilities to find new ways to resist treatment and could pass along genetic material that allowed other bacteria to become drug-resistant as well.

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