Grieving dad backs call for routine Group B Strep test that would have saved his newborn's life
The heartbroken father of a baby girl who died just half-an-hour after birth said it would be a fitting legacy to his daughter if he can prevent another newborn from dying due to a bacterial infection.
Dunmurry couple Brendan and Susan Maguire lost Hollie on October 26, 2016 at Belfast's Royal Victoria Jubilee Maternity as a result of congenital pneumonia caused by Group B Streptococcus (Strep).
The couple, who have a 19-month old girl Evie, and are expecting another baby at the end of next month, are now supporting a new campaign for all pregnant woman here to be screened for the infection.
Today a cross-party letter was sent to Northern Ireland chief medical officer Dr Michael McBride and Richard Pengelly, permanent secretary of the Department of Health, calling for the introduction of routine antenatal screening for Group B Strep.
Mr Maguire (31) said he wanted to try to prevent other families from going through the trauma and heartache that he and 36-year-old Susan continue to suffer after what happened to Hollie.
"It is unacceptable that a baby born in Northern Ireland has a higher chance of developing a Group B Strep infection than a baby born elsewhere," Mr Maguire said.
"Cross-party support is important to us because any baby's life saved is brilliant and, as it stands, we felt that Northern Ireland was a more risky place to be parents.
"It's still very hard. Losing Hollie was one of those things that you don't ever get over, you just learn to cope with it a different way.
"Nothing can bring Hollie back.
"We're just trying to help other people from suffering what we're going through - it's just horrible.
"We just have to keep going. If we can do this, then it's a good thing."
Mr Maguire, a mortgage adviser, said that he and Susan, who works in retail, have put themselves forward because they believe they must raise awareness around what he called "an avoidable infection most of the time".
"If Northern Ireland introduced routine screening other babies would be protected and other families wouldn't have to go through the pain of losing a child," he said.
"If it saves any parent, and if another baby lives because of what happened to Hollie, then that's a really good legacy to have."
Following the inquest into Hollie's death on June 5, 2019, her parents warned other mothers-to-be to take a simple test for the bacteria.
The letter has been signed by SDLP MLA Mark H Durkan, Sinn Fein MP Michelle Gildernew, DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, Alliance MEP Naomi Long and Jane Plumb, chief executive of charity Group B Strep Support.
It states that, while there have been significant steps forward in its prevention of Group B Strep infection, improvements are possible.
It also notes that "in America, Canada, France, Germany or Italy, Mrs Maguire would have been tested to see if she was carrying Group B Strep bacteria and offered antibiotics in labour, which would very likely have prevented Hollie's infection".
Group B Strep is the most common cause of serious infection in newborn babies in the UK and one of the leading causes of neonatal pneumonia, sepsis and meningitis.
On average, two babies each day in the UK develop Group B Strep, and each week one dies from the infection and another is left with a life-changing disability.
Around one in four pregnant women carries Group B Strep and the bacteria may be passed unknowingly from a mother to her baby around birth.
Most Group B Strep infections in newborn babies can be prevented by testing mothers late in pregnancy and providing intravenous antibiotics during labour to those who test positive. This reduces the risk of a baby developing a Group B Strep infection by up to 90%.
The test would cost the NHS just £11 each time, and costs from £35 privately.
Ms Plumb welcomed the cross-party support for the introduction of routine antenatal screening for Group B Strep here. The charity chief executive added: "As the letter says, important progress has been made but introducing routine antenatal screening would prevent more babies suffering and dying from avoidable Group B Strep infections, and saving future families from avoidable misery."