Daly Bread: Accuracy of fact regarding NICU deaths

In the gloom of last Sunday, generated by the deaths of seven babies in less than a week at the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in the Port of Spain General Hospital this month, I took heart from the offerings of fellow columnists Raffique Shah and Noble Phillip.

During the course of last week, I also took heart from my own work in the face of attempts by the usual suspects—as well as a few surprising recruits—to dumb down comment on and to deflect responsibility for the bacterial outbreak connected with the babies’ deaths.

A baby receives treatment in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

I took heart because there was no inaccuracy of fact in my work. It was based on the disaster of an admitted outbreak of bacteria in the NICU and was informed by guidelines issued by a reputable source, which concerned “isolation precautions and preventing transmission of infectious agents in healthcare settings”.

None of the usual suspects denied that there was a bacterial outbreak. It was expressly confirmed.

For example, early last week, a reported statement from Dr Marlon Timothy, head of the Port of Spain General Hospital NICU, reportedly commented on a subsequent baby death that: “the baby girl’s death is not linked to the seven deaths caused by the bacterial outbreak between 4 and 9 April. He referred to ‘a cluster of infections’.”  (See Trinidad Express 23 April 2024.)

A nurse struggles to cope with frustrating conditions.

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) is currently conducting an independent investigation into the newborn deaths. After some initial theatrics, the Ministry of Health released the names of the three-person PAHO team.

It may be useful to note that PAHO is reportedly the specialized health agency of the Inter-American System and also supposedly serves as the Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization (the WHO).

Together with WHO, PAHO is member of the United Nations system.

Photo: Minister of Health Terrence Deyalsingh.
(Copyright Office of the Parliament 2021)

Raffique Shah has been writing columns far longer than I have. Last Sunday, he remarked how it takes a lot out of him trying to deal with certain issues without the intrusion of the unpleasant aspects of politics and politicians.

He expressed an expectation that “his columnists colleagues will agree on this”. I certainly do.

I am relieved that I am not the only commentator who feels that commentary sometimes takes a lot out of me, particularly when so many in so-called civil society support cover-up.

A PNM supporter pulls a face during a 2023 Local Government Election rally.
Photo: PNM

That is why we look for things to relieve the gloom of the damaging of lives—sometimes fatally, by our politicians accompanied by the excuse-making of their satellites.

Thank you, therefore, Noble Phillip, for your lyrical references also last Sunday, to the poui and other trees.

I had recently myself been refreshed by the yellow poui blossoms described by Noble as “nature putting on a recital”.

A poui tree serves as a backdrop at the Moruga Secondary School ground on Tompierre Road.
Photo: Nicholas Bhajan/ Wired868

Like Noble, I also adopt the words of Tillawillah, who said of the yellow pouis: “They are a much-needed light shining through the rage and ugliness of the last few days. Everything blooms again.”

I too have tried to describe the beauty of the poui and other blossoms, the vibrant colour of our sunsets and the varying blues of our Caribbean seas.

We are now on the verge of the month of May, about which I once wrote: “May is frangipani season and the white frangipani trees are the last floral warriors standing in the dry season on account of their high tolerance of drought.

Frangipani flowers.

“The white frangipani is complemented by the reds of the immortelle and flamboyant.”

I also take heart from the resilience of Canna lilies sometimes growing on the hot white sand of Mayaro beach. The common colours are red and yellow.

Those colours ironically grow in harmony in the same space, quite unlike the ugly contestation between those colours in the political space.

We all mourn the newborn deaths but the ugliness of that red and yellow contestation has produced insensitive partisan political jousts over those deaths.

Canna lilies commonly come in red or yellow.

Meanwhile the serious internal disputes within the Opposition United National Congress over the electability of its leader, former Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar, are in plain sight.

Opposition fulminations over the newborn deaths will not hide that.

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