Northern Ireland

Two babies dead after infection at Belfast hospital

The trust is investigating the outbreak at the maternity hospital
Image caption The trust is investigating the outbreak at the maternity hospital

Two babies have died at the Royal Maternity Hospital in Belfast after an outbreak of an infection called pseudomonas.

The Belfast Trust said the deaths, in the neonatal unit, may be linked to the outbreak. Admission to the unit is being restricted.

The bacteria can cause infections in the chest, blood, and urine.

The health minister said identifying the source of the infection was a priority.

Edwin Poots added: "This is a serious incident.

"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 that we contain it and reduce the risk of spreading. "

The babies died in the last week to 10 days, but a possible link to the bacteria was only discovered recently.

Image caption Consultant Clifford Mayes said the germ can exist on the skin

There are currently 26 babies in the unit, which cares for ill or premature babies.

They are all being tested for the infection and those found to be clear of it will be treated in a different part of the hospital.

Any mothers who are expected to need the unit after the birth of their babies will possibly be sent to different hospitals.

Consultant Clifford Mayes, who works in the neo-natal unit, said the germ can exist on the skin without it causing any problems, but that if very small babies contract the infection, they can deteriorate very quickly.

"Obviously this is very concerning for parents," he said.

"What we have done is that we have screened all the babies in the unit looking for evidence of this on their skin, so that we can separate babies who are very well and have no pseudomonas on their skin from those who do."

In a statement, the trust said: "We are in the process of investigating the outbreak and taking all steps to identify the source.

"To help prevent the spread of this infection everyone including parents and guardians are being asked to be diligent in their hand hygiene when entering and leaving the unit.

"The situation will be kept under constant review."