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Probe into hospital's kid deaths

By Brendan McDaid

Calls were made for a coroner's investigation into the deaths of four new-born babies at Londonderry's Altnagelvin hospital to be conducted as transparently as possible.

The call from SDLP councillor Seana Hume, who sits on the Western Health and Social Services Council, follows yesterday's hospital statement that it has asked the Coroner's Office to investigate the infants' deaths.

The PSNI has confirmed it has been instructed by the coroner to carry out an investigation.

It is understood the probe was ordered by the hospital due to the proximity of the infants' deaths.

Ms Hume yesterday said: "It is only right and proper that Altnagelvin hospital should refer these cases for an inquiry and I welcome their full co-operation. I hope the inquiry will be open and transparent at all stages.

"This will be an incredibly difficult time for the families of the deceased infants, and to avoid any more unnecessary suffering I hope the inquiry is processed as quick as possible."

Ms Hume added that the inquiry "needs to be thorough and the families need answers".

"I await the outcome of the inquiry and at this time my thoughts and prayers are with all the families affected."

Altnagelvin has refused to make public particulars relating to the children and their deaths. A spokesman said staff were co-operating with the coroner.

A PSNI spokesman confirmed: "We are carrying out an investigation into the deaths on behalf of Her Majesty's Coroner."

Senior coroner John Leckey confirmed the appointment of medical experts for the probe.

"The investigations are complex and will take some time to complete. Once the reports have been received from the experts, the need for inquests will be considered by the coroner," his office said in a statement.

The experts are:

  • Professor William Thompson, Emeritus Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Queen's University Belfast
  • Professor Sabaratnum Arulkumaran of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at St George's Hospital Medical Schools, London
  • Dr John Jenkins, Senior Lecturer in Child Health at Queen's, and a consultant paediatrician.

The inquiry has been running since September. It's not clear how long it will last.

A hospital spokesman said: "Any unexpected death is always a source of sadness for our staff and we have given our sincere condolences to the bereaved parents and families.

"We are co-operating fully with the coroner's investigations and we believe it is inappropriate for us to make any further media statements on this matter pending the completion of the investigation."

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