Baby death parents call for public inquiry

Caoimhe Campbell and Gavin Burke, the parents of baby Caolan who died from a bacterial infection at Altnagelvin Hospital in December, say there are still questions to be answered about his death.
Caoimhe Campbell and Gavin Burke, the parents of baby Caolan who died from a bacterial infection at Altnagelvin Hospital in December, say there are still questions to be answered about his death.

The parents of a baby who died in an outbreak of a killer infection at Derry’s Altnagelvin Hospital have called for a public inquiry.

Gavin Burke and Caoimhe Campbell’s 10-day-old son Caolan died in the hospital’s neo-natal unit last month from the deadly Pseudomonas bacteria.

Within weeks, a different strain of the infection had struck at the Royal Jubilee neo-natal facilities, claiming the lives of the other three infants.

Taps in both units have been identified as the source of the outbreaks and health chiefs have faced tough questions on whether enough was done to warn other hospitals in the wake of the Altnagelvin outbreak.

Caoimhe Campbell said an inquiry was needed. “He would still be here only for that infection,” she said. “Even though he had the bleeding on the brain, they told us he would still pull through.”

She added: “We want a public inquiry into this because it’ll get at the truth.”

Mr Burke said they only found out the bacteria was the cause of Caolan’s death after the funeral.

“We realised after we buried him,” he said. “The doctors called out to the house on December 14 and told us he died of Pseudomonas.”

While taps have been removed from the units in Derry and Belfast - with experts planning to install new ultra violet technology - Mr Burke said they should be replaced in units across the North.

He said questions remained as to what had happened during the time between his son’s death and the outbreak in Belfast.

“The two hospitals should have communicated and brought out that this infection was about to prevent it from killing any other babies,” he said. “It takes so long for test results to come back, they should have acted quicker and prevented the three babies in Belfast from dying.”

Dr Anne Kilgallen, medical director with the Western Trust, said Altnagelvin first became aware of infection in its neonatal unit on December 12 and immediately took appropriate action. She said, since then, Altnagelvin had no further cases in the unit.

“In the course of investigations, on December 13, 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.”