Dad: ‘I’ll sue health service’

A LOCAL dad has said he will sue the health service after his severely disabled daughter contracted killer bug Pseudomonas whilst in hospital.

By PATRICIA DEVLIN

Patricia.Devlin@midulstermail.co.uk

Little Katie Maguire (4) from Castledawson was struck down with the bacterium infection in the intensive care unit at the Royal Hospital for Sick Children weeks before it claimed the lives of three premature babies at the hospital’s neo-natal unit.

The four year-old, who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy, has cerebral palsy and is blind, was left in a critical condition with the infection before Christmas after she was transferred to the Belfast Trust hospital from Antrim Area Hospital in November.

Dad Gary McCann this week told the MAIL that he has taken steps to instigate legal proceedings against the Northern Ireland health service over the incident and Katie’s overall care in hospitals here since she was born.

“I feel that Katie has been let down by the health service of Northern Ireland enough,” explained the devoted dad.

“Her care here has been terrible. The community nurses have been brilliant but outside that box her care has not been acceptable.

“Katie still has nothing that she was promised by Michael McGimpsey, the then Health Minister even though we are now home from America three years. No services. Nothing.”

“For her to catch an infection in intensive care in the Royal Children’s Hospital is totally unacceptable,” added Mr McCann.

“It’s been made quite clear that letters were sent out by the Chief Medical Officer of Northern Ireland warning of the bugs coming off water. And these letters, which specifically warn about Pseudomonas and other water based infections, are dated from September 2010 right up to December 2011, the month the first baby died, so it’s not as if they did not know the bug was there. “No effort was made to test or alleviate the problem before now and now it is too late. My child nearly died with this infection through their neglect.”

Mr McCann’s comments come after Health Minister Edwin Poots announced that an investigation is to be held into the Pseudomonas outbreak which has claimed the lives of four babies in the province.

The health minister told the Northern Ireland Assembly on Tuesday it would be headed by Patricia Troop, former head of the Health Protection Agency in England. Three babies died from the bacterial infection at Belfast’s Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital in January. In December, another baby died at Altnagelvin Hospital, Derry, from a different strain of the infection.

Mr McCann said he saw little evidence of infection control measures to ensure other seriously sick children in the hospital did not fall ill with the infection when Katie took ill.

“Before they confirmed it was Pseudomonas we had free reign of the hospital,” he said.

“When you are parents like ourselves who are in and out of hospital so much, you start to meet other parents, and see regular faces and you become friends. I suppose the hospital is a night out for us.

“All the children that are in intensive care are very, very sick and they have suppressed immune systems as well, and during this time we may have been having lunch with other parents and passing on this infection. The hygiene part of it was ridiculous.”

Little Katie was released from the Royal in time for Christmas but has since been back in hospital two times since catching the bug.

“Katie hasn’t recovered. She’s still very sleepy, very drowsy since she came out,” adds dad Gary.

“She was home over Christmas and she was back in hospital on January 3rd with a urinary tract infection and she is back in again since last week with the same symptoms she displayed in the Royal.”

Mr McCann added the infection outbreak showed that bigger hopitals were “struggling to cope” with a larger number of patients and called for smaller hospitals such as the Mid-Ulster to be reopened. He has also called for the appointment of a Health Ombudsman in Northern Ireland.

“Preventive cover is down to not having bigger wards, and having too many beds squeezed into the one space,” he said.

“It’s time the health trusts looked at opening up the small hospitals again,” he told the MAIL.

“The Mid-Ulster Hospital has to be reopened because Antrim is just not coping. Their plan isn’t working and children are being left to suffer and now these superbugs are starting to come about and cause havoc.

“It needs to be open on a temporary basis to relieve the problem at Antrim. And then that is when discussions can open. But Antrim is not coping.

Mr McCann added: “It is time that we had a regulator in here because there is no-one regulating our health service.

Poots needs a Health Ombudsman.

“We have Ombudsman for police, for the prison service...for everything except health. It is now time we got one.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said it could not comment on the matter.

“As Mr McCann is considering legal proceedings, it would be inappropriate for the Department to make any comment at this time.”