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Belfast hospital infection traced to taps

Health minister says taps at Royal Jubilee neonatal unit will be removed, after deaths of three babies in outbreak

Sink taps were the source of an infection that killed three babies at a Belfast hospital, Northern Ireland's health minister has said.

Edwin Poots told the Northern Ireland assembly that the Pseudomonas bacteria originated in taps in the neonatal unit at the Royal Jubilee maternity hospital.

The ward has been deep cleaned after six babies were found to be infected with the bug. Three babies have died due to the infection and a fourth died of a related infection at Altnagelvin hospital in Derry.

Poots said the taps would be replaced, and there was no evidence that the bacterium was in the water system. He said it was likely to be a localised problem and work would be carried out over the next few weeks to ensure the environment was safe.

"The circumstances surrounding this are complex and there is considerable detective work involved," Poots said.

"Our neonatal network is managing well and well-established arrangements are in place. My priority is to manage the outbreak."

Taps were also the source of the Altnagelvin infection. Pseudomonas aeruginosa is found widely in soil and stagnant water. It does not usually cause illness in healthy people but can pose a serious threat to people with weak immune systems.

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