Northern Ireland

Bereaved family have fresh questions over baby deaths

Caolan Burke was 10 days old when he died
Image caption Caolan was 10 days old when he died

The family of a baby who died from a bacterial infection in Londonderry have said there are still questions to be answered about his death.

Caolan Campbell died in Altnagelvin in December, just weeks before three babies died from a different strain of the Pseudomonas bacteria in Belfast.

The family's solicitor said a public inquiry should establish if there could have been cross-contamination when one of the sick babies was transported to Belfast's Royal Jubilee Maternity.

Three babies died over the past three weeks after contracting the bacterial infection through sink taps at the Belfast hospital.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) confirmed on Friday there were no new cases of pseudomonas.

It said seven babies at the Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital and Antrim Hospital, connected with the outbreak, had pseudomonas colonisations.

This means they carried the bacteria on their skin, although this, in itself, would not make them ill.

The PHA also said six other babies, not related to the outbreak, in Altnagelvin, Craigavon and Antrim Hospitals, were also carrying the bacteria on their skins.


The Western Trust have said a single tap was also the source of the infection at Altnagelvin in December.

Caolan's parents, Caoimhe Campbell and Gavin Burke, have called for the inquiry.

But their solicitor Walter Hegarty said they are concerned they will not get the full truth of what happened - as the family do not yet know which strain of the infection killed their child.

He said any inquiry should be the remit of the Health Minister, Edwin Poots.

"It should encompass not only the outbreak in Altnagelvin but also the outbreak in Belfast and the investigation as to whether or not there could have been cross-contamination via the incubator from Altnagelvin to Belfast and whether or not Pseudomonas can become a variant strain.

"Does the incubator act like petri dish and cause that strain to vary?"

Image caption Michael McBride said swift action had been taken

In a statement on Friday, Dr Anne Kilgallen, the medical director with the Western Trust said Altnagelvin first became aware of infection in its neonatal unit on 12 December and immediately took appropriate action.

She said, since then, Altnagelvin had no further cases in the unit.

"In the course of investigations, on 13 December 2011 the trust identified pseudomonas in a single tap within the unit," she said.

"The room was closed to new admissions and the tap was dismantled, disinfected and retested.

"The retests indicated that the tap was free from pseudomonas. The tap has subsequently been retested over the past five weeks and it has remained clear of pseudomonas.

"That was 10 days before the chief medical officer issued a letter on December 22 to all trusts urging infection control teams to assess risks. It did not specifically mention pseudomonas at Altnagelvin or Caolan's death.

Michael McBride, the chief medical officer, told BBC Newsline on Thursday: "I believe that we took swift and decisive action to communicate to the rest of the health service that we had a Pseudomonas outbreak in Altnagelvin Hospital and we had traced the source of the infection to a tap."

He added: "This is about good infection control measures in out hospitals.

"The important thing is that we avoid contamination of taps, that was the purpose of this advice."

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