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A Message to MSH staff from the President regarding health care in the NICU

May 31, 2007 -- You may have read a story on the front page of today's Globe and Mail about the tragic loss of a newborn infant in our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit this week. Dr. Allison McGeer has been our spokesperson with the media, and has also done a series of radio interviews and a media conference this morning.

As you know, very premature babies are always at risk of infections. Serratia is typically found in the environment, especially in intensive care unit settings, and is a well-recognized cause of infections in vulnerable patients. We have recently seen outbreaks caused by this bacterium in other neonatal units in Toronto. Our neonatal staff and the Infection Control team carry out ongoing surveillance for this and other bacterium that could pose a threat to our patients – and surveillance will continue. There are four infants in the NICU who are colonized with Serratia, and we are monitoring their status carefully. Our Level III NICU remains closed.

This is a high risk patient population, and our programs to prevent infections are our highest priority. The first goal is safety, and this Hospital is rightly proud of the fact that our serious infection rate in the NICU is lower than that of comparable units. The closure of Level III Perinatal units related to infections is not an uncommon occurrence, as it is necessary to manage such situations effectively. Our quick response from the perinatal group, working with Infection Control and our partner hospitals helped us manage the transfer of mothers and babies where appropriate to ensure safe care.

Our hearts go out to the infant’s family for this devastating loss. I know that this grief is also shared by our excellent staff in the NICU, the Labour and Delivery Unit, and throughout the Women’s and Infants’ Health Centre of Excellence. We are so proud of our caring teams in every area of the Hospital.

We appreciate the professionalism and dedication of our clinical teams, who have been doing everything possible to ensure that all of our expecting mothers and our newborns receive the safest and best care since our Infection Control team detected a possible infection last Thursday.

Infections in these delicate newborns is a shared concern. We have been working to do our best to create new space for the future. As part of Renew Sinai, our capital redevelopment plan, we will be expanding our Women’s and Infants’ Health program starting very soon and this will include creating single room design for our NICU babies and their families.

I also want you to know that George Smitherman, Provincial Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, has been extremely supportive of this initiative, announcing several months ago initial funding for the redesign and plans for this change. The start of this project is imminent.

I am confident our clinical teams have done everything possible and deserve a great deal of credit dealing with this difficult and emotional situation. I know we are doing everything possible to ensure that our mothers and newborns receive the best, safest care possible. I will continue to keep you updated as necessary, and thank you all for doing your best during these difficult weeks.

Joseph Mapa
President and CEO, Mount Sinai Hospital