Belfast Telegraph

Editor's Viewpoint: We need clarity and reassurance

It seems that the health authorities are very slow to learn from past mistakes. Quite rightly there was strong condemnation of the warning letter sent to hospitals and other health facilities after a baby died from the pseudomonas infection at Altnagelvin Hospital shortly before Christmas.

The letter advised hospitals that the bacterium had been found in health facilities but did not specify that the infant had died.

Now the Public Health Agency has revealed that the bacterium has been found in three more neo-natal units at Craigavon, Erne and Daisy Hill hospitals. However, yet again, the information is vague. The bug is present in a small number of water outlets, but the public is unaware of whether the taps are the source of the bacterium or whether it is coming through the water system from some other point.

Given that 10 babies have contracted the infection and four have died since December, parents are naturally concerned of their babies coming in contact with the bacterium. They want the clearest possible information on where it has been discovered, how it has got into the water taps or other sources and what steps are being taken to eradicate it. None of that information should be difficult to obtain or relay, yet it seems that the authorities only give out the bare minimum of information and then only when pressed.

But the lack of information should not detract from our appreciation of the care given to babies who had contracted the infection. Two mothers, whose children with complex medical needs have been infected several times, tell this newspaper today of the sterling efforts of medical staff to treat their children and how at least one of them had her life saved on a number of occasions. That is the real worth of the National Health Service. It is a pity that those charged with dispensing information could not show the same zeal and expertise.

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