MRSA baby family's plea

By Mark HeathTHE loving family of MRSA victim Luke Day have said they do not want his death to be used as a political football - and stressed the tragedy should be a force for change.

By Mark Heath

THE loving family of MRSA victim Luke Day have said they do not want his death to be used as a political football - and stressed the tragedy should be a force for change.

Julie Fenton, Luke's paternal grandmother, was speaking last night as news of Luke's death sent shockwaves across the country.

As revealed exclusively by the East Anglian Daily Times yesterday, Luke died from an MRSA-related illness just 36 hours after he was born at Ipswich Hospital in early February.


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The tragedy prompted political leaders to seize on the MRSA issue, with the Conservatives accusing Labour of “pre-election trickery” in relation to figures about the killer bug.

Tory leader Michael Howard, who sent his “deepest sympathy” to Luke's family, also stressed cleaner hospitals were part of his party's “five priorities”.

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But Mrs Fenton said: “I can speak for all of us when I say that we don't want it to be used to swing political parties one way or the other - I'd be very disappointed.

“Our main purpose in coming forward was to let the public know, and they certainly do now. We're trying to be strong for Luke - we're doing this for him and at the end of the day we're his voice.

“I'd like to think the politicians are doing this for genuine reasons and not playing on public sympathy. I don't like dirty tricks.”

Luke was born naturally at Ipswich Hospital on February 2, weighing 7lb 7oz and showing no signs of ill health, but died 36 hours later, leaving his teenage mother Glynis, 17, and father Kevin Fenton, 24, from Woodbridge, devastated.

Luke's body was sent to Great Ormond Street Hospital in London for a post-mortem examination. It concluded that Luke died from septicaemia caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).

A community midwife had told them MRSA had been found in Luke's bloodstream, and was thought to have entered his body through the umbilical cord.

The family were tested, as were Ipswich Hospital staff and areas of Orwell Ward, where Luke and Glynis had stayed, but nothing untoward was found - although the ward had been cleaned since the baby's death.

But the couple were shocked to find no mention of MRSA on his death certificate and Mr Fenton refused to sign it until MRSA was given as the cause of death.

“They said septicaemia was on the certificate and it couldn't be changed. I told them that I wasn't going to sign it unless MRSA was put on and we got a call from the registrar two days later saying that it had been changed,” he said.

“I was so annoyed that MRSA was not initially on his death certificate - how many other people have been in the same shoes? The true picture isn't available to the public.”

Luke's family were besieged by national media yesterday after the EADT hit the streets.

“We're shellshocked by all of this really. We had no idea of the interest that we'd get. It's been quite difficult,” said Mrs Fenton.

“Glynis has been really strong and we're looking after each other. Kevin is bearing up. They're finding it difficult to keep going over and over it, but they're doing it for Luke.

“We want to see a change in the way they record MRSA deaths - if somebody has died from MRSA it should be on their death certificate - and also tighter cleaning regimes in the hospitals.”

The Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire Strategic Health Authority said last night that it had extended its deepest sympathies to Luke's family.

It added: “Ipswich Hospital NHS Trust are tackling MRSA vigorously, in line with Department of Health policy.

“The trust reported the case via the serious untoward incident process, which is the normal procedure. The case was referred to the coroner, which was the appropriate action.

“The trust instigated an investigation into the events surrounding this once this unexpected cause of death was determined following the coroner's post-mortem.

“The investigation included testing of the ward, the surrounding maternity facilities, all staff who have come into contact with Luke and the immediate family members for the presence of MRSA.”

It continued: “All of these tests have proved negative. As yet, we do not understand how a tragedy such as this could occur when the ward and maternity area are clear of MRSA.

“The strategic health authority is committed to working with the trust to investigate how MRSA could be the cause of Luke,s death and are determined to address anything which this investigation shows needs action.”

Figures revealing more of the extent of the MRSA problem at Ipswich Hospital were also released yesterday, and showed a jump of more than 100 cases in the past year.

Hospital records showed 1,047 cases were diagnosed in 2004, compared to 944 in 2003, while the number of cases in which MRSA was recorded as a factor on a death certificate rose from one in 2002 to five last year.

Chris Dooley, acting chief executive of Ipswich Hospital Trust, said its ongoing investigation was committed to establishing how Luke contracted MRSA.

He added Luke's case was “highly exceptional” and had never happened before at the hospital's maternity unit.

“Our investigation has not found a source for the infection of baby Luke. Consequently, we are confident that the maternity unit at Ipswich Hospital does not present a risk,” said Mr Dooley.

Ipswich Hospital has set up a helpline for parents-to-be who are concerned about giving birth at its maternity unit.

Christine Colbourne, head of midwifery at Ipswich Hospital, said: “Mothers who have given birth at Ipswich Hospital since Luke Day's tragic death on February 3 and whose babies are well will have no need to ring us.

“We've decided to set up the help line primarily for women who are pregnant and due to deliver at Ipswich Hospital who may, understandably, have concerns.”

Senior midwives can be contacted on 01473 703101 between 9am and 7.30pm today and tomorrow.

The helpline has an answering machine and messages left overnight will be responded to promptly the following morning.

Parents expecting a baby imminently who have any concerns can ring the hospital switchboard on 01473 712233 between 7.30pm and 9am and ask for the senior midwife.

n Have you contracted MRSA while in hospital or are you a hospital worker concerned about standards of cleanliness on wards? Contact the EADT Newsdesk on 01473 324732 or by e-mail to news@eadt.co.uk with your story.

mark.heath@eadt.co.uk

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