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Cancer ward upgrade ‘could expose patients to infections’

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Craigavon Area Hospital

Craigavon Area Hospital

Health chair: Colm Gildernew has raised concerns about the risk to patients

Health chair: Colm Gildernew has raised concerns about the risk to patients

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Craigavon Area Hospital

Cancer patients could be put at risk from deadly infections including Covid-19 as part of plans to upgrade a ward at Craigavon Area Hospital, it has been warned.

The Southern Trust is planning to move the haematology ward at the hospital from next month while work is carried out to upgrade facilities for patients with blood cancer.

A whistleblower said this would involve the creation of a temporary six-bed ward in the Ramone wing of the hospital, while some haematology patients will be treated in non-specialist areas on general wards.

It is understood that the windows of Ramone ward will have to remain sealed to reduce the risk of bacterial or fungal infections in patients with no or very weak immune systems.

This would make it impossible to ensure proper ventilation of the ward to reduce the transmission of the likes of Covid-19, flu and other airborne viruses that can be deadly to vulnerable people.

It is alleged that patients treated outside of the temporary haematology ward will not receive the same specialist care as normal, and staff are reportedly currently concerned for patient safety.

In 2018, the Southern Health and Social Care Trust came under fire following an inquest into the death of a cancer patient from a highly infectious winter bug while receiving treatment at Craigavon Area Hospital.

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Ann McEvoy (54) died at the hospital, where she had been receiving chemotherapy for a brain tumour, on January 25, 2016,

Eight days after she was admitted, an outbreak of norovirus was confirmed in the haematology ward where she was a patient.

At the time, the ward had been moved to temporary accommodation because of remedial works.

Giving evidence at the inquest into her death, consultant haematologist Dr Kathryn Boyd said the facilities offered to patients affected by the ward transfer had not been ideal.

She added she had only consented to the move on the understanding that it would be for four months.

However, patients remained in the temporary ward until the following Easter.

Delivering his findings, coroner Joe McCrisken said patients had not been provided with suitable facilities during the ward relocation.

He added that hygiene controls put in place during the norovirus outbreak had also not been up to standard.

Mrs McEvoy’s son said after the inquest that his mother would still be alive if more had been done to prevent infections.

Stormont health committee chair Colm Gildernew has also raised concerns that haematology patients may be put at risk in coming months.

A spokesman said the trust was “currently working through a number of interim options to provide a safe and high-quality haematology service” while the unit is upgraded.


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