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Simon Harris vows to meet Rotunda chief to discuss new wing to tackle 'safety crisis' for premature babies

An outbreak of infection recently saw eight babies affected – with the death of one infant referred to the coroner.

Image: Shutterstock/Nenov Brothers Images

THE MINISTER FOR Health has vowed to meet with representatives from the Rotunda Hospital to discuss “potential interim works” at the hospital in a bid to tackle further patient safety incidents.

The Master of the Rotunda wrote to Simon Harris last month requesting “urgent assistance” in progressing development plans for the construction of a new building on the west side of Parnell Square.

Fergal Malone warned Harris that a new wing in the hospital was the most “efficient and timeliest” solution to its patient safety needs in light of a recent infection outbreak in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) which he has been attributed to overcrowding. 

In a statement to TheJournal.ie the Department of Health said Harris “intends to meet with Prof Malone and other representatives from the Rotunda as well as the HSE to discuss potential interim works at the hospital”. 

As previously reported by TheJournal.ie and Noteworthy.ie, the Rotunda, which is the busiest maternity hospital in the country, said it is facing an “intolerable patient safety crisis” due to overcrowding and poor infrastructure. 

The Rotunda’s NICU was previously forced to close due to the outbreak of a multi-drug resistant organism.

On 10 May, Malone said the hospital had been struggling to contain this infection, identified as “ESBL-producing Klebsiella”, for six weeks which has affected eight premature babies to date.

One baby which had been infected had died after 25 weeks’ gestation – the exact cause of death is yet to be determined by the Dublin City Coroner. 

The Department of Health said that after being notified by the Master of the Rotunda in mid-May of this infectious outbreak, the Department’s “immediate priority was for the welfare of the infants affected by the outbreak and the safe care of all infants in the NICU”. 

The Department immediately sought assurances from the hospital that safe and appropriate care was being provided to infants cared for at the NICU. In addition, the Department sought information regarding the immediate and medium-term actions being taken by the Hospital and Hospital Group to address the outbreak.

It added that it had been assured by the Rotunda that international best practice for managing infectious outbreaks had been followed along with the implementation of an extensive action plan by the Hospital to address the outbreak situation.

In also confirmed that relocation of the Rotunda to Connolly Hospital will go ahead in line with Government policy to co-locate maternity services with acute adult services adding that it is one of the “key infrastructure projects which will be funded under Project Ireland 2040″.

However, it acknowledged that “some infrastructural development will be necessary” at the Rotunda Hospital in the meantime. 

The Rotunda confirmed in a statement that “engagement is ongoing” with the Department.

In August 2017, work began on a new four-bed extension to the special care area, followed in January 2018 by a renovation and modernisation of the remaining NICU which was completed by December. Despite these refurbishments, ideal incubator and cot spacing could not be achieved in the NICU due to “space restrictions”.

In its statement today, the Department said a capital development solution – designed to address the most urgent risks in Foetal Assessment, NICU and theatre – was agreed with the Rotunda in 2017 and is currently underway.

About the author:

Adam Daly

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