Poots sorrow at baby deaths tragedy
Health Minister Edwin Poots has described the pseudomonas outbreaks that claimed the lives of four babies in hospitals in Northern Ireland as the worst experience of his political life.
The DUP minister told the Assembly that informing the bereaved parents that their children's deaths may have been avoided was one of his toughest-ever jobs.
Mr Poots was addressing MLAs during an Assembly debate on the turn of the year crisis.
Three babies died in Belfast's Royal Jubilee Maternity Unit in January after contracting the bacterial infection while another new-born died at Londonderry's Altnagelvin Hospital in December from a different strain of the bug.
Taps in the neo-natal facilities were identified as the source.
An interim independent report on the episode said there were delays in sharing information about the infections between health trusts and that the outbreak in Belfast was not declared quickly enough.
The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) review team, chaired by Professor Patricia Troop, found that neo-natal facilities in the Royal were not up to the required standard and called for long-delayed plans to replace them to be expedited.
A Sinn Fein motion in the Assembly reiterated the call for the timetable to be brought forward and criticised the decision to build new maternity and children's hospital facilities at the Royal as two separate projects and not one, as originally envisaged.
Responding to the debate, Mr Poots again expressed his sympathies to the families affected.
He added: "For me personally it has been the worst experience of my political life having to deal with these circumstances and having to deal directly with the families involved. Indeed, telling people that their babies died and perhaps that was avoidable was one of the hardest tasks that I've ever had to fulfil and I trust that I don't have to do it again."