Two premature babies have died and a third is in a stable condition after an infection was found at a hospital neonatal unit.
An incident management team (IMT) has been set up to investigate the three cases of the Staphylococcus aureus blood stream infection at the Princess Royal Maternity Hospital in Glasgow.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said in a statement the two who died were “extremely poorly” due to their early births, with infection being “one of a number of contributing causes in both deaths”.
The third baby has also received treatment for the bacterium after the IMT was triggered on January 24.
Dr Barbara Weinhardt, infection control doctor, said: “Our thoughts are with the families affected.
“Results have today confirmed that the three cases of Staphylococcus aureus are linked and our investigations continue into how they are linked.
“Staphylococcus aureus is a bacterium that is found on the skin and in the nasal passage of around one in four people and only causes infection when it enters the body.
“In cases where people are vulnerable to infection, it can cause serious infection.
“We have taken a number of control measures in the unit, including a deep clean, isolation and barrier nursing, safety briefs to all staff and infection control advice to all visitors.”
The Princess Royal Maternity Hospital is based adjacent to Glasgow Royal Infirmary in the city centre.
An IMT comprises of specialist clinicians, infection control doctors and nurses, occupational health clinicians and colleagues from estates and facilities.
Dr Alan Mathers, chief of medicine, women’s and children’s services, added: “The national guidance sets out that an investigation should be triggered when two or more cases of the same type of bacteria are found.
“In this case, this was triggered on 24th January and an Incident Management Team meeting was convened.
“The IMT began their investigations into possible linkages between the three cases and sent samples for testing.
“Whilst these results were awaited, we spoke to the families affected, together with the parents on the unit and staff, to let them know of our investigations.
“The results that have come back today have confirmed links between the three cases.
“Our infection control team continues to work closely with clinical colleagues and domestic staff to manage the situation and take all necessary steps to maintain patient safety.”
The babies’ deaths come after two other deaths at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in the south side where a 10-year-old boy contracted the Cryptococcus infection.
Prosecutors are investigating the incident and also the death of a 73-year-old woman which was initially said not to be related to the infection connected to pigeon droppings.
Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “This is a desperately tragic story, and people will now ask serious questions about infection control in hospitals.
“Four deaths have now occurred in recent times under circumstances like these, and it’s time for the SNP government to get a grip on this situation.
“Our sympathies go out to the families involved, who are going through unimaginable trauma.
“Staff, patients and families need vital reassurance as a matter of urgency.”
Labour MSP Monica Lennon added: “This is utterly heartbreaking and tragic. My thoughts go out to the families of these babies who will be absolutely devastated.
“Coming so soon after the deaths of patients at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, this will leave people questioning infection control standards at hospitals in Glasgow and across the country.
“The Health Secretary must urgently provide the reassurance the public needs.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “This is a desperately sad situation and my heart goes out to the families affected.
“As soon as she is in possession of all the facts, the Health Secretary should appear before Parliament to offer reassurances to patients that these outbreaks are being addressed and that where necessary procedures will change to prevent any further tragedy of this kind.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “My thoughts are with the families affected at this time. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has spoken with these families as well as other families within the unit and, with the support of Health Protection Scotland (HPS), is taking the necessary steps to ensure patient safety.
“The health board continues to be supported by Health Protection Scotland, and its infection control team is working closely with clinical and domestic staff to manage the situation.”