Pregnant women moved after hospital's infection outbreak
Two heavily pregnant women have been forced to travel from Northern Ireland to Dublin to have their babies because of a deadly infection outbreak.
The expectant mothers were due to give birth at the Royal Hospital in west Belfast but had to endure the 100-mile journey when a bacteria called pseudomonas struck the neonatal unit.
Three newborn babies have died since the outbreak of the bug, which is particularly harmful to infants who are already ill.
Admission to the Royal's neonatal unit is now being restricted.
The Republic's Health Service Executive (HSE) confirmed two women were admitted to maternity wards at two separate hospitals in Dublin over the past few days.
"The referrals were from consultant to consultant," said a HSE spokesman.
"These requests were made because the neonatal unit is closed in the Belfast hospital due to infection control issues relating to pseudomonas aeruginosa."
The spokesman said other maternity hospitals in the Republic have indicated to authorities in Northern Ireland they are willing to provide support.
"All babies accepted in the hospitals through the neonatal transfer protocol are checked on arrival, as a matter of routine, for any infection," he added.
Pseudomonas is an organism typically associated with water and moist environments, and while very common, it rarely causes serious infection.
The HSE said all hospitals in the Republic have standard systems in place to detect clusters of any infection including pseudomonas aeruginosa.
Infections of pseudomonas aeruginosa in Ireland is recorded through the European Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance System.
There were 133 cases of the infection reported in the first three-quarters of 2011.