Belfast Telegraph

We are all working hard to manage this outbreak

Striving to ensure safe, specialist care at all the province's neonatal units is Edwin Poots' number one priority

First, let me express my deepest condolences to the families of those whose babies have tragically died as a result of the Pseudomonas infection in the neonatal unit at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

Late yesterday afternoon, I received the upsetting news that another baby at the hospital was suspected of being infected. This has not been confirmed by laboratory tests, but clinicians have a high level of suspicion and are treating the baby as a matter of precaution.

My thoughts are with this baby and family at this time. I know medical staff are taking every step to ensure this baby recovers.

Six other babies in the neonatal unit had been found to be infected with Pseudomonas and very sadly three died. In a separate incident, a baby died in Altnagelvin Hospital in Londonderry in December of a different, unrelated, strain of the infection in the Jubilee.

I fully understand the anxiety of parents and the wider community. We continue to do everything we can to ensure safe continuity of care for babies and support for families. Working to ensure safe, specialist neonatal care remains available for all babies in the Jubilee and across other units has been my number one priority since the Pseudomonas outbreak was identified.

Every precaution has been taken to ensure that any risk of the spread of infection is minimised and all necessary control measures put in place. There have been no further deaths, but we will not under any circumstances become complacent. I intend to make a full ministerial statement to the Assembly today.

As I informed Assembly members yesterday, my department, the HSC board, the trusts, the Public Health Agency and the Ambulance Service continue to work very closely together to ensure safe continuity of care for infants and ongoing management of this outbreak.

Over the weekend, health specialists continued to investigate. Bio-decontamination of the intensive care part of the neonatal unit at the Jubilee was completed to ensure it would be an absolutely safe environment for premature babies.

More widely, across all our hospitals, the neonatal network is managing well and stringent infection controls are in place.

At the Jubilee, the neonatal unit is the only part affected by this outbreak. The delivery wards and all other services at the maternity hospital are operating as normal. Expectant mothers should attend scheduled appointments.

I further wish to reassure outpatients and others who may be visiting the hospital and encourage them to attend appointments as normal.

Pseudomonas bacterium is an organism that can be found in many natural environments, including soil and water. Infections are mainly seen in immune-compromised and debilitated patients.

Outbreaks of Pseudomonas have occurred in intensive care facilities around the world as patients in these facilities are frequently immune-compromised. Our health experts continue to take actions to ensure that infection controls are in place. All the babies remaining in the Jubilee have now been screened and parents have been informed of the result for their babies.

At this stage, six babies have been identified who have the Pseudomonas bacteria on their skin; this is not causing active infection. The babies continue to receive safe, specialist neonatal care.

I met with staff who work in the Jubilee neonatal unit on Friday and I wish to take this opportunity to thank them for their continued hard work in caring for these babies.

I also wish to acknowledge the contribution of all involved in ensuring rigorous infection controls are in place across all our hospitals as the outbreak is managed.

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