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Pseudomonas probe by health trust... five months after baby died

By Lisa Smyth

Health bosses have been criticised for carrying out a review of treatment and care of a baby who died from pseudomonas — five months after the tragedy.

It has emerged the Western Health Trust will carry out a formal review of the care of Caolan Burke at the neonatal unit at Altnagelvin Hospital.

The trust has sent a letter to his parents stating that it has now decided to carry out its own formal review from the time of his premature delivery in the Londonderry hospital until his death in December at just 10 days old.

Stormont health committee member Kieran McCarthy said the trust should have carried out a full investigation once the outbreak was declared in December.

“It is important we learn lessons to ensure nothing like this ever happens again, but you do wonder about the timing of this review being carried out by the Western Trust,” he said.

“I would have thought it should have been looking carefully at all its procedures immediately.”

In total, four babies died during the outbreak of pseudomonas in December and January.

Three died at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Unit in Belfast.

As details of the outbreaks emerged earlier this year, the Health Minister came under increasing pressure to act.

Following the third death of a premature baby at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in January, Edwin Poots announced an independent review of the outbreaks by Professor Pat Troop, alongside the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA).

She raised concerns over the handling of the outbreaks and said some of the deaths may have been avoided if health bosses had acted sooner. She also criticised communication in the trusts.

The parents of Caolan have also expressed concerns their son may have survived if the trust had strictly followed hygiene on managing the infection.

Mr McCarthy added: “I have no doubt action by the trust and department on the outbreak at Altnagelvin and the later outbreak at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital is as a direct consequence of pressure from the media.

“I doubt we would ever have known about the death of this poor baby had it not been from pressure from the media.”

A trust spokeswoman said: “The trust, in line with normal good practice, is reviewing the clinical care the baby received in Altnagelvin.

“The trust can also confirm that members of the RQIA team were advised, prior to their meeting with the parents and their solicitor, that the trust was undertaking such a review and the RQIA team confirmed that this was good practice.”


Pseudomonas is a bacteria found in damp environments and can be extremely serious in patients with low immunity, such as premature babies. One baby died at Altnagelvin Hospital in December 2011, and three at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in Belfast at the start of this year. An interim review found the most likely source was contaminated tap water.

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