Two newborn babies died from killer bug at ‘super-hospital’ because people didn’t wash their hands properly

The University Hospital of North Staffordshire
The University Hospital of North Staffordshire

Two newborn babies died at a brand new “super-hospital” after contracting a rare killer bug because staff and visitors failed to wash their HANDS properly, an inquest heard.

Jessica Strong was just 11 days old when she died from an infection at the £400m University Hospital of North Staffordshire after a “breakdown in hand hygiene”.

An inquest heard how an outbreak Serratia Marcescens swept through the neonatal ward in June last year affecting six premature children.

The University Hospital of North Staffordshire
The University Hospital of North Staffordshire

The first infant along with three others suffered no symptoms but Jessica and another baby – who has not yet been named – died after contracting the bug.

North Staffordshire Coroner’s Court heard that despite being born three months premature – baby Jessica was  doing well in the first few days of her short life.

But when her condition started to deteriorate blood tests found traces of the infection – which is found in the stomachs and bowels of children.

Just 12 hours later despite two blood transfusions Jessia died on June 30 after the bug swept through her spleen, lungs and brain.

Her devastated mother Annette, 43, told the hearing: “She had been doing so well staff were trying to transfer her home.

“Then I got a call that she had deteriorated and they had resuscitated her.

“I rushed back to the hospital and the day before she died I had her baptised. I was at her cot-side and she had her eyes wide open and seemed to recognise my voice.

“But by then it was clear she would not make it so I gave her a last cuddle. She was my beautiful little dot.”

Staff from the hospital’s neonatal unit told coroner Ian Smith they were devastated they may have contributed to the deaths.

Neonatologist Dr Kate Palmer, who was responsible for Jessica before she became infected, said: “This has very much hurt the staff but it has been a wake-up call and brought a sea-change in attitude and culture to infection which now permeates everything we do.”

Lead infection control nurse Emyr Phillips added: “While previous audits on the unit going back years showed excellent results, there was a clear breakdown in hand hygiene practice which could have been caused by staff or parents.”

Recording a narrative verdict, Mr Smith said: “Death was from extreme prematurity and infection spread by hand contact.”

An inquest has yet to be held into the other baby who died at 22 days.

After the hearing mother-of-two Annette revealed the family have appointed solicitors to take legal action against the trust.

She added: “I believe that the infection has been spread by a member of staff, there’s no way one parent could’ve contracted it and passed it on to six other babies.

“It shouldn’t have taken two deaths to have the new hygiene steps put in place, it’s disgraceful and upsetting.”


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