Santa Maria baby unit suffers outbreak of multiresistent bacteria

11 babies test positive in latest misfortune for Santa Maria

The neonatology service of Santa Maria Hospital has been rocked by the discovery this week that 15 babies were found to have been ‘colonised’ with multi resistant bacteria Klebsiella.

Klebsiella species are routinely found in the human nose, mouth, and gastrointestinal tract as normal flora; however they can also behave as opportunistic human pathogens in situations involving weakened immune systems – habitually found in hospitals, particularly in premature newborns (these being the majority of babies in the neonatology service). Thus this has been the concern of hospital authorities, which have stopped admitting new babies, and are not transferring any currently in Santa Maria’s care to other hospitals.

Three babies have already been considered healthy enough to go home with their parents; 11 are still interned; two have tested negative for the bacteria.

Reports that one baby has died have been put into context by Santa Maria’s director of infectious disease Álvaro Aires Pereira, who explained that the existent of Klebsiella was only discovered post-mortem. 

“When (the baby) died there was no suspcion of any infection, so he was without antibiotics. We found out in tests that had had this bacterium (but) he would have died with this bacteria or any other”.

In other words, the cause of death had nothing to do with Klebsiella in the baby’s gut, where it can live perfectly innocuously.

The trouble with this latest development at Santa Maria is that it comes as the obstetrics medical team is fighting for what it perceives as the future of the gynacology and obstetrics unit as a whole.

Doctors are also balking against being forced to work in a different hospital (São Francisco Xavier) while their unit is closed, ostensibly for renovation work.

Very recently, the head of obstetrics at the hospital was ‘dismissed’ in circumstances that he later described to MPs were more political than having any kind of technical bearing. And while doctors and nurses were pushing for his reinstatement, a report went out that the Ordem dos Médicos (Order of Doctors) had withdrawn their confidence in him, because he was seeking to allow specialised midwives to handle low risk pregnancies. The irony of this reason to withdraw confidence was that the recommendation actually came in a European directive, and is common practice in first world countries

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