Belfast Telegraph

Inquiry urged over pseudomonas baby infection deaths

By David Young

The parents of one of four babies who died in outbreaks of a killer infection in two hospitals have called for a public inquiry.

The deadly pseudomonas bacteria claimed the lives of one baby in Altnagelvin hospital in Londonderry and three in the Royal Jubilee Maternity hospital in Belfast.

Gavin Burke and Caoimhe Campbell's 10-day-old son Caolan died in the neo-natal unit in Derry last month.

Within weeks a different strain of the infection had struck at the Royal Jubilee neo-natal facilities, claiming the lives of the other three infants.

Taps in both units have been identified as the source of the outbreaks and health chiefs have faced tough questions on whether enough was done to warn other hospitals in the wake of the Altnagelvin outbreak.

Ms Campbell said an inquiry was needed.

"He would still be here only for that infection," she said.

"Even though he had the bleeding on the brain, they told us he would still pull through."

She added: "We want a public inquiry into this because it'll get at the truth. A public inquiry - what's the truth?"

Mr Burke said they only found out the bacteria was the cause of death after the funeral.

"We realised after we buried him," he told BBC Northern Ireland.

"The doctors called out to the house on the 14th December and told us he died of pseudomonas."

While taps have been removed from the units in Belfast and Derry - with experts planning to install new ultra violet technology - Mr Burke said they should be replaced in units across Northern Ireland.

He said questions remained as to what had happened during the time between his son's death and the outbreak in Belfast.

"The two hospitals should have communicated and brought out that this infection was about to prevent it from killing any other babies," he said.

"It takes so long for test results to come back, they should have acted quicker and prevented the three babies in Belfast from dying."

While health officials wrote to all hospital trusts reminding them of the infection risks presented by water systems after Caolan died, the letter did not specifically mention that a baby had died of pseudomonas in Altnagelvin.

All babies transferred to other units from two hospitals are currently being screened for the killer infection.

Health chiefs said infants who had since been discharged from hospital did not need to be screened because the bacterium usually affects those who are ill and vulnerable.

One baby infected with pseudomonas continued to be treated at the Royal for pneumonia.

In total seven infants treated in the Royal contracted the infection. Two have recovered and another baby who recovered subsequently died from unrelated causes.

There were three cases of pseudomonas in the outbreak at Altnagelvin. Of the two surviving babies, one recovered, while the second was transferred to the Royal. However, as the strain of the infection was different, that baby's transfer was ruled out as the cause of the subsequent outbreak in Belfast.

Pseudomonas can cause infections in the chest, blood and urinary tract.

Seven other babies who have been found to be carrying traces of the bacteria, for example on their skin, have shown no signs that they had contracted the infection.

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