NWRHA: No equipment or evidence is being tampered with

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NWRHA: No equipment or evidence is being tampered with

The North-West Regional Health Authority (NWRHA) has denied allegations that it was attempting to tamper with and ­sanitise evidence in the investigation of deceased babies at the Port of Spain Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU).

The accusations were made in a pre-action protocol letter from Freedom Law Chambers.

The pre-action protocol letter issued on Tuesday stated the Authority’s investigation of the deceased children (separate from a Pan American Health Organisation probe) had spurred concerns of potential “evidence tampering” among the firm’s clients.

However, in its media release yesterday, the NWRHA said it was standard practice for events such as an outbreak within the NICU to be internally investigated by the regional health authority.

The internal investigation was a necessary procedure mandated by established policy, it said. ­Additionally, it said the NWRHA was cooperating with the PAHO as required.

“All requests from PAHO are being facilitated, and meetings have been arranged as per their requirements. PAHO representatives met with the NWRHA laboratory staff on April 23, 2024, at the Department’s lunch/meeting room, which is the designated area for group meetings,” it said.

Addressing concerns over its laboratory procedures, the NWRHA said sanitisation within its labs was a standard daily procedure.

“The suggestion that this daily practice equates to tampering of evidence is both reckless and unfortunate. Claims of the need to recreate or reinvent the department are baseless and unfounded as the Haematology Department underwent a rigorous audit process in December 2023 and received recommendations for certification by the Jamaican National Accreditation Agency,” it said.

The NWRHA said all machines in the hospital’s laboratory were calibrated and certified for use by the Caribbean Industrial Research Institute (CARIRI). Efforts to maintain the equipment, including the centrifuge’s replacement, were a part of its maintenance procedures, it added.

Additionally, the NWRHA said there were no “dilapidated” refrigerators in use at the haematology laboratory.

“No refrigerators were removed or replaced from the laboratory that have been in use. Repairs were conducted on April 23, 2024, on two of three refrigerators that were awaiting repairs. All other refrigerators at the lab are fully functional and continuously monitored as is mandated by policy,” it said.

Regarding the “out of order” labelling of equipment, the NWRHA said its laboratory equipment officer alone is authorised to place such signage on equipment.

It went on to add that on Tuesday, staff observed that parameters of the Seamaty SDI Auto Dry Chemistry Analyser, a machine used to test a patient’s blood for emergency use, appeared out of range, though it appeared normal on the day prior, which “led the department supervisor to suspect that the equipment may have been adjusted and resulted in the Equipment Officer placing an ‘Out of Order’ sign on it until rectified. All primary machines and other secondary machines remain functional”.