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GP tells of calls from patients in fear following spate of drugs-linked death

Dr Michael McKenna said he had been contacted by patients fearful of the consequences of taking drugs. Picture by Philip Walsh.
Seanin Graham and Suzanne McGonagle

A WEST Belfast GP has revealed a spike in calls to his surgery from patients fearing they will die from using drugs following a spate of sudden deaths.

Five people - including a 16-year-old girl - have died in the city since the weekend with police saying three of the cases may be drugs-linked.

Police last night said that post mortems had taken place and they were awaiting the results of toxicology reports.

The first of the deaths took place in Verner Street in the city centre on Friday.

Four other people - who all died on Monday - included Christopher Lavery, who was found dead at his grandparents' house in Riverdale Park North and Mick Hall (25) from the Upper Springfield Road area. Both deaths are believed to be drug-related.

Police are also investigating the sudden death of a 28-year-old man at Utility Street in south Belfast and a 16-year-old girl who was found dead in the Great Victoria Street area.

Dr Michael McKenna, who said one of his patients was among those who died, said he had been contacted by several young people including a teenager who had taken up to 30 'blues' or 'street Diazepam' at once.

The Falls Road-based GP said: "Once the word was out about the deaths, call starting coming through on Tuesday from young people in their early 20s as well as a teenager. They were fearful about a potential reaction to the drugs they were taking," he said.

It also emerged last night that a meeting of statutory bodies is being planned.

West Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Stevie Corr said he was hoping to convene a meeting where the recent deaths could be addressed and they could look at ways of offering support to the families of those affected.

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