TRINIDAD–The PM urges the country to await the outcome of an independent probe into the deaths of babies

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PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad, CMC – Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley Wednesday said he is anxiously awaiting the outcome of an independent probe into the deaths of at least eight babies at the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) of the Port of Spain General Hospital earlier this month.

Lawyers for the parents of the babies, led by former attorney general Anand Ramlogan, SC, have already announced a class action lawsuit against the North West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) even as the government confirmed that it had asked the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to conduct the probe.

The NWRHA, in a statement confirming the deaths between April 4 and 7, said laboratory investigations revealed the presence of three different organisms—Serratia marcescens, ESBL Klebsiella pneumoniae, and Klebsiella aerogenes—all known to pose significant risks to vulnerable neonates.

“Despite administering high-dose antibiotics and providing advanced and intensive cardio-respiratory support, the infection claimed the lives of some of these preterm babies, all weighing under 1500 grams and less than 32 weeks gestational age,” it added.

Speaking at the opening of the Sangre Grande General Hospital, east of here, Prime Minister Rowley said he was “unfortunate because I have brought with me the sadness of seven or eight families who in recent days, instead of enjoying the birth of young ones, and you know the true happiness that brings to families, we as a nation have to face some accident …in one of our leading hospitals…in what appears to be some shortcomings and the loss of lives of our newest citizens.

Rowley said the situation puts sadness across Trinidad and Tobago, even as he urged members of the public not to speculate as to what caused the deaths.

“I simply want to know what happened in Port of Spain General Hospital. It is easy to take the easy road out and say things that are not supported by facts.

“We as a nation need to know, and we will leave no stone unturned to find out what happened in Port of Spain general. There are processes to be followed. I have been informed that the Pan American Health Organization has been invited to undertake an independent inquiry (so) let’s wait for the outcome”.

Rowley said the situation “is harrowing, but we want to ensure we are treating facts of the situation.”

He said he had had a personal relationship with the neonatal unit at the hospital, telling the opening ceremony that his eldest daughter had been born prematurely.

“I happen to know that hospital. I happen to know what goes on in the neonatal care department. There was a time when I used to go in there every evening at four o’clock, expecting to be told that my firstborn did not make it through the day. She was born at seven months and weighed three and a half pounds.”

He said the “outstanding health care delivery in that hospital that caused me today to be the happiest father in the country (as) my daughter not only survived but prospered.

“Ladies and gentlemen, it is easy to put ourselves down, but let us give ourselves the opportunity to find out first what has happened and commit first to rectifying what is required,” Rowley told the ceremony.

Meanwhile, Health Minister Terrence Deyalsingh has brushed aside calls by the main opposition United National Congress (UNC) for him to resign due to the situation.

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