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Written Statement - University Hospital of Wales Neonatal unit

Mark Drakeford, Minister for Health and Social Services

This written statement updates Assembly Members about the University Hospital of Wales’ neonatal unit and the additional capital investment approved by the Welsh Government.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board closed the neonatal unit to new admissions on 30 November after three babies tested positive for Acinetobacter baumannii (A.baumannii) colonisation or infection. There were 14 babies being cared for on the unit at the time it was closed.

The outbreak was managed in accordance with guidance and the Cardiff unit was supported by the South Wales Neonatal Network. The unit was reopened on 21 December. There have been no new cases of the A.baumannii organism (infection or colonisation of babies) since 30 November. An extensive set of measures have been put in place to manage any further risk of cross-infection and babies are being screened for A.baumannii. New protocols for cleaning equipment with a chlorine-based product have also been introduced.

Cardiff and Vale University Health Board sought expert independent professional advice from Professor Mike Sharland, of the Paediatric Infectious Diseases Research Group, at St George’s University, London. He confirmed there had been a very thorough and well conducted outbreak response and that no additional interventions were warranted. Professor Sharland also highlighted that such outbreaks are prolonged and despite no further cases being recorded it was possible that more may occur even with all appropriate interventions being taken.

In re-opening the neonatal unit, priority is being given to those babies who need surgical and planned foetal medicine care. Mothers delivering babies likely to need neonatal support will be managed on a case-by-case basis. Some mothers who have suspected pre-term labour babies without a need for neonatal critical care may be transferred to other units within the South Wales neonatal network.

I have approved £7.5m for the extensive modernisation of specialist services for premature and sick babies at the University Hospital for Wales. This will create more space in the neonatal unit – it will be expanded into an area currently occupied by another ward – including ensuring all supporting services are close to hand, efficient use of staff resources and compliance with cot spacing standards. These improvements will aid the implementation of infection control measures. The renovated unit will include special care, high dependency and intensive care cots.

This investment at the University Hospital of Wales, which is one of three specialist centres providing the most complex neonatal care for babies and their families in Wales, supports longer-term plans for services across South Wales, which were subject to public consultation as part of the South Wales Programme.