Health trusts may not have acted quickly enough to prevent hospital outbreaks of a deadly infection which killed four babies in Northern Ireland, the Stormont health minister has said.
Announcing an independent investigation into the pseudomonas bacteria emergencies in three neonatal units, Edwin Poots told the Assembly that the actions of trust officials needed to be rigorously examined.
"To be perfectly honest, Mr Speaker, at this stage I am not convinced the Trusts responded quickly enough and that is why I am going down the route that I am going," he said.
"And that's why I will have an independent investigation, and it will be an independent investigation, and we will get the answers. Irrespective of how we get them, we will get the answers and we will make them public."
Mr Poots has asked the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) to conduct the investigation, which will also examine the response of his own department. But he stopped short of ordering a full public inquiry into the outbreaks, insisting such a probe could take years to complete.
"I cannot afford to wait years for answers," he said.
Separate outbreaks claimed the lives of one newborn at Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry in December and three at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast this month.
Traces of the infection were also detected in the neonatal unit at the Ulster Hospital on the outskirts of Belfast at the weekend, though no infants contracted it.
The parents of one of the four babies who died from pseudomonas had called for a public inquiry.
Gavin Burke and Caoimhe Campbell's 10-day-old son, Caolan, died in the neonatal unit in Derry last month. Ms Campbell said last week: "He would still be here only for that infection." She added: "We want a public inquiry into this because it'll get at the truth."