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Independent investigation ordered after fourth patient dies following Craigavon hospital Covid-19 outbreak

An investigation is underway at Craigavon Area Hospital following a coronavirus outbreak among patients and staff. Picture by Mal McCann
Digital Staff

An independent investigation has been ordered into coronavairus outbreaks at Craigavon Area Hospital after the death of a fourth patient.

A fourth patient died this morning after contracting Covid-19 on Craigavon Area Hospital's Haematology Ward, the Southern Health Trust has confirmed.

A total of 14 patients have been confirmed as infected during the outbreak. Last week two patients died in the hospital while another died at home after discharge although the trust said the virus "was not the primary cause".

Health Minister Robin Swann has ordered the most serious level of investigation available to him.

He announced the move as he answered an urgent oral question on the outbreaks in the Stormont Assembly this afternoon.

Earlier today, the minister chaired discussions with senior officials from the Southern trust, the Public Health Agency and the Department of Health.

"I said on Friday that a thorough investigation is required and that patients and bereaved families are entitled to answers," he said.

"I can now confirm that a level three serious adverse incident review will be initiated.

"This will be independently chaired and I expect its findings to be made public.

"I also want to again express my deepest sympathies to the loved ones of those who have passed away.

"I am deeply sorry that families have been plunged into grief in such disturbing circumstances."

The minister said the Southern trust's immediate priorities were to care for affected patients and staff and prevent further spread of the virus.

"The Public Health Agency gave me an assurance at the meeting that all the actions that have been requested to reduce spread have been implemented by the Trust," he said.

"I was also assured by the Southern trust that support is available for families, patients and staff.

"There are undoubtedly questions that will have to be answered by the Trust in relation to these outbreaks.

"There is also a lesson for us all to keep heeding - Covid-19 remains a lethal and highly infectious virus."

Trust Chief Executive Shane Devlin extended her "deepest sympathy to the patient’s family and friends” on behalf of the trust.

Last week, the family of 79-year-old John Fleming, who died after being diagnosed with coronavirus just days before he was due to go home, said their father "blamed the hospital" for allowing him to contract Covid-19.

The ward remains closed to new admissions with 17 members of staff also testing positive and "off work and self-isolating", along with 42 more "identified as potential contacts".

In the daily statisical update from the Department of Health it was confirmed that there had been another significant jump in the number of Covid-19 cases, with 141 recorded in the most recent 24 hour period.

It brings the total for the last week to 639. There have been 7,868 cases since the pandemic began.

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