Glasgow & West Scotland

Two babies die after contracting blood infection

Princess Royal Maternity Hospital Image copyright Google
Image caption The Princess Royal Maternity Hospital is next to Glasgow Royal Infirmary

Two premature babies have died after contracting a blood stream infection at a Glasgow hospital.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde confirmed it was initially investigating three cases in the neonatal unit at the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital.

But it said two of the "extremely premature" babies have since died and the infection was "one of a number of contributing causes" in both deaths.

The third premature baby required treatment and is in a stable condition.

NHSGGC confirmed an incident management team was set up on 24 January after the staphylococcus aureus bacterium was detected.

A deep clean has also taken place in the unit at the hospital in Alexandra Parade, next to Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Dr Barbara Weinhardt, infection control doctor, said: "Our thoughts are with the families affected.

"Results have today confirmed that the three cases of staphylococcus aureus are linked and our investigations continue into how they are linked.

"Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is found on the skin and in the nasal passage of around one in four people and only causes infection when it enters the body."

'Heartbreaking and tragic'

Dr Weinhardt said in cases where people were vulnerable to infection, it can cause serious infection.

She added: "We have taken a number of control measures in the unit, including a deep clean, isolation and barrier nursing, safety briefs to all staff and infection control advice to all visitors."

Dr Alan Mathers, chief of medicine, women's and children's service, said national guidance sets out that an investigation should be triggered when two or more cases of the same type of bacteria are found.

In this case an incident management team meeting was convened last Thursday. The team is made up of specialist clinicians, infection control doctors and nurses, occupational health clinicians, and estates and facilities staff.

Dr Mathers added: "The IMT began their investigations into possible linkages between the three cases and sent samples for testing.

"Whilst these results were awaited, we spoke to the families affected, together with the parents on the unit and staff, to let them know of our investigations.

"The results that have come back today have confirmed links between the three cases.

"Our infection control team continues to work closely with clinical colleagues and domestic staff to manage the situation and take all necessary steps to maintain patient safety."

Health secretary Jeane Freeman said: "My thoughts are with the families affected at this time.

"NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has spoken with these families as well as other families within the unit and, with the support of Health Protection Scotland, is taking the necessary steps to ensure patient safety.

"The health board continues to be supported by Health Protection Scotland, and its infection control team is working closely with clinical and domestic staff to manage the situation."

NHSGGC is also awaiting the results of a separate investigation into the deaths of two patients at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow after they contracted an infection linked to pigeon droppings.

On Tuesday the Crown Office confirmed it was looking into the death of a 73-year-old woman at the £842m hospital earlier this month.

Prosecutors were already probing the death in December of a 10-year-old boy.

'Reassure the public'

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs said the "desperately tragic story" raised "serious questions" about infection control in hospitals.

"Four deaths have now occurred in recent times under circumstances like these, and it's time for the SNP government to get a grip on this situation," he said.

"Our sympathies go out to the families involved, who are going through unimaginable trauma. Staff, patients and families need vital reassurance as a matter of urgency."

Labour MSP Monica Lennon added: "This is utterly heartbreaking and tragic. My thoughts go out to the families of these babies who will be absolutely devastated.

"Coming so soon after the deaths of patients at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, this will leave people questioning infection control standards at hospitals in Glasgow and across the country.

"The health secretary must urgently provide the reassurance the public needs."