Northern Ireland

Poots meets Belfast Trust heads over pseudomonas review

The neo-natal unit at the Royal under went a deep clean
Image caption Neonatal units in Northern Ireland hospitals have undergone a deep clean

Health Minister Edwin Poots has met the chief executive and chair of the Belfast Trust to discuss the findings of an interim report on the pseudomonas outbreak.

The Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA) is investigating the four deaths at hospitals in Belfast and Londonderry in December and January.

It said the Belfast Health Trust should have declared the outbreak sooner, and criticised a lack of communication between health officials.

The review team also found there was no common approach across neonatal units for declaring an outbreak.

Mr Poots told the BBC on Wednesday: "I think the Belfast Trust has answers to give, and I will be challenging them on these issues.

"I think that it's vitally important that whenever letters go from chief medical officers, they're taken seriously and they're responded to in a timely and appropriate fashion."

He was speaking after the RQIA interim report was presented to the health committee at Stormont.

The independent review team, led by Prof Pat Troop, concluded that the bug was linked to water from contaminated taps in neonatal units.

They found that a lack of co-ordination between staff in health trusts during the outbreak may have impacted on how decisions were made.

The team said it believed the most likely way the bug spread to babies was the use of tap water in washing during nappy changes.

It has recommended that in future only sterile water is used for washing babies in neonatal units.

The review also said that a nurse reported a leaking roof in the Royal Jubilee Maternity's neonatal unit six days after a baby was diagnosed with pseudomonas.

Prof Hugh Pennington, an emeritus professor of bacteriology at the University of Aberdeen, is a leading expert in pseudomonas.

Image caption Prof Pat Troop said her team would examine whether some of the deaths were preventable

Commenting on the interim report, he said: "It shows there were various things that could have been done that weren't done.

"I think part of the problem was that people were not taking pseudomonas seriously enough despite the fact we knew it was very nasty for these very vulnerable young kids.

"Prof Troop was right when she said that if action had been taken earlier then things might have been less tragic."

He said part of the problem was that people in Northern Ireland and elsewhere were not taking pseudomonas as seriously as they should have been.

"That is one of the recommendations of the report that we have pseudomonas put into the same category as MRSA and C Diff as an alert organism which as soon as you find it the bells ring and you surge into action and I'm sure that is what will happen in the future," he added.

The first stage of the review addresses the causes and impact of the outbreak, and the full report is due by the end of May.

The interim report was welcomed by Dr Anne Kilgallen of the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

"The recommendations of this review will have a significant and beneficial impact on the care provided to babies in neonatal units throughout all our hospitals well into the future and will hopefully provide some comfort to those families that suffered a loss as a result of pseudomonas aerations infection," Dr Kilgallen said.

"There have been no further cases of infection since 10 December 2011 in the Western Trust and we are pleased to see learning gained from the actions of our staff at the time has been included as part of the recommendations put forward by the review team in this report."

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