Probe launched as infection kills babies in hospital maternity unit

Deep clean announced as pseudomonas aeruginosa linked to deaths of premature infants

An emergency deep clean will be carried out following the deaths of three babies in the maternity unit at the Royal Hospital in Belfast.

The death of the infants is being linked to the deadly pseudomonas aeruginosa infection, which can lead to severe breathing problems.

As the third case was confirmed, expectant mothers at the unit were being transferred to other hospitals in the Irish Republic and Britain.

Dr Richard Wright, associate medical director at the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust, said: “We are engaged in a fairly major investigation to identify the cause of the infection.”

Pseudomonas aeruginosa is bacteria found in soil, water, plants and animals and is particularly harmful to those who are already ill.

Northern Ireland Health Minister, Edwin Poots, said they were looking into infection control at the unit, adding: “It is important that we remain calm. Infection control teams are now in the process of trying to identify the source of the infection and to minimise the risk of spread to other babies in the unit.”

He added: “Babies in neonatal units are already vulnerable due to clinical conditions and varying degrees of prematurity. This makes them less able to withstand infections, including those that would not cause problems in healthy babies.”

Sadly babies have died whose deaths may be linked to this outbreak. We are supporting these families at this very difficult time

The first two babies to die were born prematurely, with a hospital spokesman telling BBH: “Sadly two ill babies have died whose deaths may be linked to this outbreak. We are supporting these families at this very difficult time.

“We are in the process of investigating the outbreak and taking all steps to identify the source.”

The hospital is now restricting admissions to the unit and is asking all visitors to adhere to strict hand hygiene controls when entering or leaving the wards.

Poots said: “This is a serious incident and the priority now is to identify the source of the infection and minimise the risk of spread to extremely vulnerable babies in the unit.

I have asked the trust to work with the Public Health Agency to ensure all necessary steps are swiftly taken to identify the source of the infection so we can contain it and reduce the risk of spreading

“I have asked the trust to work with the Public Health Agency to ensure all necessary steps are swiftly taken to identify the source of the infection so we can contain it and reduce the risk of spreading.

“I have asked the trust and the Public Health Agency to keep me fully informed. I have also directed the Health and Social Care Board to work with the trust to minimise any potential impact on the availability of neonatal intensive care cots.”

Building Better Healthcare is putting together an indepth article on the outbreak, and looking at whether hospitals are winning the fight against infection. If you can contribute to this, please contact the editor, Jo Makosinski, on 020 7193 8083. You can also email jom@hpcimedia.com

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