Jamaica hospital tightens security after baby’s HIV scare

(Jamaica Observer) The Victoria Jubilee Hospital implemented a procedural security change on Tuesday in response to last Saturday’s frightening incident in which a mentally ill patient infected with HIV/AIDS went into the maternity hospital’s nursery and breastfed another woman’s week-old baby.

The change, as explained by Lyttleton ‘Tanny’ Shirley who chairs the board of the South East Regional Health Authority, is intended to provide a more secure environment for the newborn on the nursery ward and prevent any such future occurrence.

“No one outside of a medical team will access the primary nursery unless you are the mother or the father and you will be carrying a wristband and you will be escorted to the particular child and escorted back out,” Shirley told the Observer on Tuesday.

The new guideline was crafted at an emergency management meeting on Monday to discuss Saturday night’s incident, which has raised questions about security at the institution that handles, on average, 8,000 deliveries per year.

Yesterday, Shirley, quoting doctors, said that there was a “very, very slim chance” of the baby contracting HIV from the brief encounter.

“From what my medical team is saying, there is probably a one per cent chance out of a hundred of [the baby] getting the virus — primarily because you would have to have a continuos supply of breast milk to create that type of transfer of the virus to the child,” said Shirley.

The child’s mother has been informed of the mishap and has been offered counselling, Shirley disclosed.

The Observer reported on Tuesday that the mentally ill woman was at the hospital to deliver her own child when she made her way into the nursery and proceeded to breastfeed the baby. A nurse on the ward intervened in the matter and the baby was taken from the woman, who gave birth to her own child an hour later. The baby who was breastfed is being treated with antiretroviral drugs.

Yesterday, Shirley said that the mentally ill woman may have been buzzed into the nursery ward by the security officer on duty, “who would see her as just another curious patient about to give birth”. He said it was not unusual for mothers who are about to deliver to rove the ward.

Apart from security concerns, the incident has also raised questions about how expectant mothers of unsound mind are treated. Shirley has admitted that the woman could have been monitored more closely, but he said that she was showing signs of recovery. He argued that the safe delivery of the baby was the priority of the health care providers and therefore the woman could not have been restrained to her bed or treated with controlling drugs.

“It is a very untenable situation to deal with. The ultimate aim is to protect the mother and child,” added Shirley.

During the interview, Shirley used the opportunity to again apologise to the mother and the public at large over the “regrettable” incident, which he called “one in a million”. At the same time, he gave an assurance that security “was intact” at the facility.

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