Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 April 2014

Apology to tragic swine flu girl’s family

Orla O'Kane, 14, from Derry who died on Sunday 11th October.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has apologised to the family of Orla O’Kane over the failure of health chiefs to inform them she had swine flu when she died.

The Londonderry teenager’s distraught family were only told she had the virus two days after her funeral.

Yesterday the Minister was forced to call an emergency meeting between the Department of Health, the Public Health Agency, the Western Trust and the Regional Virus Laboratory following harsh criticism of the handling of the case by the Western Health Trust.

Orla (14), who was a pupil at Foyle View Special School, suffered from cerebral palsy and is understood to have developed a chest infection on October 9. She was rushed to hospital for treatment after her condition deteriorated rapidly, but despite the best efforts of doctors, she passed away on Sunday, October 11.

A funeral for Orla was held last Wednesday, but the O’Kane family were not informed she had swine flu until Friday — five days after she lost her battle for life.

It has since emerged that four other pupils at Foyle View have been diagnosed with the virus. Three of them have recovered, while one is still in hospital receiving treatment.

The O'Kane family are said to be especially concerned, because her school friends and elderly neighbours were among those who attended the wake. Orla’s brother is now understood to be suffering from the virus.

Last night, the Health Minister said following the emergency meeting yesterday, a number of urgent actions would now be taken forward including prioritising the swine flu vaccination for children and young people in special schools.

He also added that Northern Ireland’s chief medical officer, Dr Michael McBride, would be conducting an investigation into why it took health authorities six days to notify the O’Kane family Orla had the virus.

“I want to offer my sincere apologies to the family of Orla O’Kane for the distress caused by the delay in being told their child had confirmed swine flu. This was clearly unacceptable and only created further anxiety for a family who were grieving for their child,” he said.

“It is essential that every step is taken to try to prevent such a situation from happening again. I asked the Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride to hold an urgent meeting of relevant organisations this morning to determine what exactly happened in this case.”

Meanwhile, parents whose children attend Foyle View Special School in Derry where Orla was a pupil have been issued with Tamiflu. Letters advising them to keep their children at home if they develop systems have also been issued.

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