Northern Ireland news

Health minister pressed to ensure probes into Covid outbreaks in Craigavon and Newry hospitals begin 'posthaste'

Two more patients in a male medical ward at Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry died over the weekend after testing positive for coronavirus. A total of five deaths have been confirmed since last Friday
Seanín Graham

CALLS were made in the assembly last night for independent investigations to urgently begin into the deaths of 11 patients following coronavirus outbreaks in two hospitals.

During a debate about Craigavon Area Hospital and Daisy Hill in Newry, health minister Robin Swann was pressed on the fact that neither a chairperson nor panel to oversee the separate probes have been appointed.

Earlier this month Mr Swann ordered the highest level health service investigation into the Covid cases at Craigavon.

Six patients who contracted the virus on a haematology ward have since died, while a further five patients who contracted Covid on a male medical ward in Daisy Hill have lost their lives, sparking a second probe.

Both hospitals are managed by the Southern health trust.

Sinn Féin's John O'Dowd last night claimed "there is evidence, though not proven" of a relationship between the two outbreaks and called for investigations to be "up and running immediately".

The SDLP's Justin McNulty said grieving families "need answers" and that the 'Serious Adverse Incident' (SAI) must begin "posthaste".

The Newry and Armagh MLA told Mr Swann that hospital staff also need reassurance that "lessons will be learned and learned fast".

In an interview with the BBC yesterday, Southern trust chief executive Shane Devlin said the draft terms of reference had been drawn up for the SAIs.

He also said that he was not aware of hospital staff being refused testing for the virus following speculation about reduced access.

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