Belfast: Experts close in on killer hospital bug

Experts are closing in on the source of an infection that killed three babies in Belfast’s Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital, the North's Health Minister Edwin Poots said today.

Experts are closing in on the source of an infection that killed three babies in Belfast’s Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital, the North's Health Minister Edwin Poots said today.

The findings of an investigation into the source of the pseudomonas bacteria could be presented to Mr Poots before he makes a special statement to the Assembly tomorrow.

While five other babies were found to have the bacteria on their skin, and are being treated with antibiotics as a precaution, they are not believed to be in danger and no further cases have been identified.

A deep clean of the hospital neo-natal unit was completed at the weekend and a helpline set up to support expectant mothers has been extended.

Assembly business was interrupted today to allow urgent questions to be put to Mr Poots on the loss of life.

The minister led expressions of sympathy to the bereaved families and he told MLAs that all possible action was being taken to tackle the outbreak, while an investigation into the cause is close to completion.

“We have identified a number of potential problems,” he said, in reference to one possible source of the infection.

“We will be getting a report back tomorrow, all being well. We can’t suggest at this stage that is the cause of the problem, but it is being investigated.”

Decontamination of the intensive care part of the neo-natal unit at the Royal is complete.

The affected area in the unit will remain closed while a team of specialists continues attempts to identify the most likely sources of the infection, but it has been warned it may prove impossible to positively identify a single cause.

All other maternity services and wards in the hospital are fully operational and working as normal.

Pseudomonas lives in water or moisture and patients can carry it on their skin.

The minister said: “What I think is important at this stage is that we have dealt with all the children in the unit.”

He said that a baby who died of the bug in Altnagelvin hospital last month was infected by a different strain.

“Indeed, not all the strains in Belfast would appear to be identical,” he said.

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