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Specialised hospital waiting room with no eating and and drinking brought in at a Co Down allergy clinic after mum challenges trust

The O'Donnell family pictured at their home in Downpatrick, Aoibhe(7) and Meabh(3). Picture by Arthur Allison/Pacemaker Press

A SPECIALISED hospital waiting room where no eating and and drinking is allowed in being brought in at a Co Down allergy clinic as part of its settlement of a disability discrimination case.

Maire-Iosa McVicker took the case to protect daughters Aoibhe (7) and Meabh O'Donnell (3) who both suffer life-threatening food hypersensitivity, FPIES (food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome).

It causes very severe physical reactions leading to physiological shock when they come into contact with trigger foods and Aoibhe also has idiopathic anaphylaxis.

Their interactions with other children have to be severely limited, especially if food is present.

Both girls attend for regular appointments at the Ulster Hospital's allergy clinic, where the waiting room originally had signs forbidding eating and drinking because of the dangers posed to patients.

However, when they were removed, the O'Donnell family twice found people were eating and drinking in the waiting room.

The first time, Aoibhe "experienced an allergic reaction which caused her distress" and on the second occasion, Ms McVicker removed the girls from the room to keep them safe.

She took the case with the help of the Equality Commission.

"I was worried sick about the exposure of my girls to what could be a life-threatening allergic reaction," she said.

"I felt that the trust, by allowing people to eat in the waiting room, had failed to make a reasonable adjustment which would help safeguard my daughters' health."

She said the solution from the trust "has been a great relief to me". It will see a separate waiting room created next year where no eating and drinking will be allowed - and an interim waiting room with a similar ban.

Seamus McGoran, of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, said it "recognises the challenges faced by children and parents living with complex allergies and are delighted that we have been able to find a solution for Aoibhe, Meabh and others when they attend for appointments".

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