The deaths of six premature babies at a hospital in Canada three years ago has been attributed to bacteria found in the building's aging water pipes.
According to an official at Sainte-Justine Hospital in Montreal, the bacteria Pseudomonas aeruginosa is found in tap water, but premature babies may be more susceptible because their immune systems are weak.
Dr. Isabelle Amyot, the director of medical services at the hospital says a report into the deaths indicates that poor plumbing contributed towards the bacterial infection.
At the time about fifty babies were infected with the bacteria which usually affects the respiratory system and premature babies, whose immune and respiratory systems are undeveloped, are particularly vulnerable.
Following the death of the first baby in 2004, the hospital authorities disinfected the ward, but five more premature babies died over the following year-and-a-half.
The ward was eventually closed the end of 2005 and an investigation revealed that Pseudomonas aeruginosa was festering in the sinks on the wards because the sinks did not drain properly.
Dr. Isabelle Amyot has denied that the institution deliberately hid details of the bacterial outbreak and says when the babies were in the neonatal unit, the parents were informed of all the details the hospital was aware of at that point.
Khiem Dao, Sainte-Justine Hospital's executive director also says the hospital did not intend to hide information from parents but was merely obeying the law, which limits information hospitals can release about the cause of deaths and has apologised for that.
Despite one set of parents publicly claiming that the hospital did not reveal the true cause of their son's death, Dr.Amyot says that no parents were ever left out of the loop.
The hospital also says that of the six deaths only four of the children died as a direct result of the bacterium; in the other two cases, the bacterium was a contributing cause of death.
Dr. Amyot says there have been no new cases since April 2006 and pressure from the hospital led the province to change the law in November 2005 so parents of deceased children under 14 could be told about the cause of death.
Hospital authorities say the plumbing system has been replaced and the danger has now been eliminated; a new neo-natal ward will be opened in 2008.