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Three birth-related deaths at U.S. Naval Hospital Guam within a 45-day period earlier this year were “tragic but unrelated,” the hospital’s commanding officer said Wednesday.

Two infants were stillborn and a mother died of a cardiac arrest while giving birth, said Capt. Bob Kellogg in a telephone interview in response to a report in the Navy Times.

Kellogg would not go into any specifics, citing “moral and legal” reasons to maintain patient confidentiality. He said one infant was stillborn during labor and the other infant death involved a case where it was discovered during a routine appointment that a woman’s unborn child had no signs of life.

The third case involved a woman who had a heart attack while in labor. Kellogg said her infant is doing well.

He defended the Guam hospital’s quality of care.

“We see an average of 10,000 patients a month, with 2,000 admitted for care each year,” Kellogg said. “And 39 babies are delivered on average every month. Actually, we have a very low infant-mortality rate. From 2005 to 2007 our neonatal mortality rate was 0.86 per 1,000 live births. That’s compared to a U.S. average of 4.6 infant deaths per 1,000.”

Kellogg said the cases were reviewed and found to be completely unrelated, adding that an extensive evaluation of the cases found no fault with the hospital staff.

“Any time there is a negative outcome we look at that with a real tight eye on what happened,” Kellogg said. “Two investigations are complete and one case is still ongoing.”

Kellogg said the hospital voluntarily forwarded reports on two of the deaths to the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospital Organizations “to ensure a comprehensive review.”

News of the deaths quickly became a topic of concern in the Guam military community.

“Guam is a very tight community, and any time an illness wins, it’s news,” Kellogg said. “This was a tragic loss to the family and we grieve with them.”

Responding to press queries, Sonja Hanson, public affairs officer for Naval Medical Center San Diego and Navy Medicine West, said different personnel were involved in each of the three cases.

“All patients were seen within the spectrum of the Maternal Newborn Program/Unit, each with a separate primary physician/nurse team,” she said in an e-mail response. “Prenatal care at USNH Guam is performed to the standards established by the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology.”


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