Ruhengeri Referral Hospital in Musanze District has deployed strong antibiotics to disinfect its neonatal care unit after 19 prematurely born babies died in March 2021, an unprecedented death toll, according to hospital authorities.
In a statement that the hospital issued on Tuesday, May 11, the hospital said that it opted for strong antibiotics after conducting extensive laboratory tests to identify the reason for the deaths.
Usually, the premature infant mortality rate at the hospital varies between 8 - 11 percent, Dr. Philbert Muhire, Director General of Ruhengeri Referral Hospital told The New Times.
However, Muhire said, the rate rose to 18 percent in March after 19 of the 104 infants admitted to the hospital died.
The issue, he said, was first observed in mid-March when infants suffered from the same condition. They had fevers that could not go away with treatment usually used.
It was then identified that the neonatology unit was infected with drug-resistant microbes.
This is an area equipped with, among other facilities, an incubator (an apparatus for maintaining a premature infant in an environment of proper oxygenation, humidity, and temperature).
According to the hospital management, the tests performed confirmed that the neonatology unit was infected with two types of multi-resistant microbes (namely enterococcus and staphylococcus Haemolyticus) that have resistance to usual drugs, and required the use of a strong antibiotic called vancomycin.
Since then, the hospital said, a set of actions have been undertaken to tackle the problem, including treatment with vancomycin.
The hospital has also relocated all admitted babies to a different room and has put in place rigorous measures to control infections in the neonatal intensive care unit.
The hospital condoled with the affected families, adding that thorough investigations are being conducted and if cases of gross negligence are identified, those involved will be held accountable.
Muhire pointed out that in April, eleven of the 105 infants that the hospital had admitted died, accounting for about 11 percent, a 7 percent drop from the previous month.
The April statistics, he said, show an improvement compared to the March data.
"The affected area was effectively disinfected to ensure that it is free from the germs," he said, emphasizing that the hospital is committed to saving the lives of infants.
Major causes of premature infant deaths
Muhire said that the main causes of premature infant deaths include congenital malformation such as malformed organs which cannot allow a newborn to survive.
Others are prematurity complications including respiratory problems and neonatal infections.
Specifically for the March infant deaths, three infants died from prematurity complications, two died from congenital malformations, while 14 died from neonatal infections.