An outbreak of Covid-19 in Daisy Hill – which has resulted in the death of three patients at the Newry hospital – will be subject to a ‘level 3 ‘serious adverse incident’ review.
The Southern Trust confirmed the move in a brief statement in response to comments made on Friday by Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty.
He had called for an “urgent independent investigation into the handling” of the outbreak at Daisy Hill. His calls came in response to Friday afternoon’s update which confirmed the loss of three lives.
A Southern Trust spokesperson said: “The Trust has been following public health infection prevention and control guidance since the outset of the Covid-19 pandemic and would strongly refute any suggestion otherwise.
“The outbreak in Daisy Hill Hospital will be subject to a level 3 Serious Adverse Incident review.”
Mr McNulty had described Friday’s developments as “very sad and extremely concerning”.
And he added: “I have been made aware of these deaths in recent days by families and I raised my concerns with both the Chief Executive of the Southern Trust and indeed the Minister for Health.
“The Trust have confirmed that 11 patients and 21 staff at Daisy have tested positive whilst 67 staff contacts are off work and self-isolating.
“This is a staggering turn of events and has escalated to this point within the last 10 days.
“Staff and patients are really anxious and are worried. Staff have contacted me raising their concerns and worries about testing and cleaning.
“I have since had two very robust meetings with the Trust’s Chief Executive raising those concerns. I was astonished to learn staff were advised that they did not need tested if they or indeed the person who had tested positive was wearing PPE. It was only after my intervention that ‘precautionary’ testing took place days later.
“Furthermore, staff also advised that wards were not subject to a deep clean following positive tests.
“This is deeply concerning and must be subject to a rigorous and independent investigation.
“A Serious Adverse Incident has been declared at Craigavon Area Hospital and the RQIA have been tasked with investigating events there.
“We need to see the RQIA in Daisy Hill. These are two hospitals in the one Trust area – something is not right. Lessons are not being learned and meanwhile staff and patient safety is being compromised.
“Staff are at their wits’ end. They are working in very difficult pressurised circumstances. They need supported and given the confidence that every measure will be implemented to ensure both they and their patients are protected.
“Families are grief-stricken. Their loved ones have been admitted to hospital Covid free and they have contracted the virus on the ward. They were expecting to have their loved ones at home by now after routine care but tragically they will never be coming home.
“The Trust have confirmed this large number of positive tests within staff and patients and sadly bereavements. We cannot allow this to continue unchallenged without investigation. The Minister must act now.”
Earlier Sinn Fein had also raised its concerns.
Local MLA Liz Kimmins spoke of a “sharp rise” in Covid-19 cases among health staff and further deaths at Daisy Hill Hospital.
The Newry and Armagh MLA said: “I am deeply concerned that over 20 staff in the male medical ward at Daisy Hill Hospital have now tested positive with Covid-19 and sadly another three people have died.
“I extend my sympathies to the families of those who have died and wish those who are ill or self-isolating a speedy recovery.
“Since the outbreak last week, we have been highlighting the failure to test staff working at Daisy Hill and there is now a sharp rise in cases.
“I have raised the issue of testing with both the Health Minister and the Chief Executive and urged them to make testing available to workers.
“While workers are now being tested, this cannot happen again. Our health workers are fighting the virus on the frontline and should be protected.
“Visiting at the hospital remains paused and I would urge people to keep following the public health advice to stop the spread of Covid-19.”