A report in the September 11 El Vocero newspaper said that 10 people in an intensive care unit in Carolina, Puerto Rico, died after contracting a bacterial infection in the unit. The deaths occurred between May and July of this year. The patients involved were in the ICU for a variety of ailments including heart conditions, but all were found to have died from the opportunistic pathogen Acinetobacter baumannii.
The announcement came from Puerto Rico Health Secretary Francisco Joglar Pesquera this week. The secretary said the bacteria reproduces in hospitals due to their natural environment. He went on to say that hospital staff received training in use of equipment and washing of hands in and out of the ICU.
It begs the question, however, why is the health secretary making the announcement and not the University of Puerto Rico Hospital in Carolina, so that patients and families can take corrective action with themselves? Why did the announcement come in September and not immediately or at least by August? Does it really take that long to get test results back?
The biggest question is how can a hospital be allowed to operate without appropriate controls, practices, and accountability in the first place — and why wasn’t the hospital or at least the ICU at that hospital closed immediately?
Only by closing the facility temporarily can a full and complete sanitizing of the walls and equipment be accomplished.
These kinds of bacterial infections occur far too often in hospitals around the world, but when 10 patients die from the same bacteria in the space of 8 weeks it’s time for some dramatic action. Instead, all that is left is the sorrow of the family members lost and numerous unanswered questions.