Tuesday, May 26, 2020

By Orla Hearns

Mayo University Hospital (MUH) is being directly blamed for the county’s disproportionately high number of Covid-19 cases.

Local independent Cllr Michael Kilcoyne made the claim yesterday afternoon, having revealed that some staff at the Castlebar-based hospital who are dealing with Covid-19 patients have still not been tested for the virus themselves.

Meanwhile the Saolta group, which is responsible for the management of MUH, continues to refuse to answer queries for data specific to Covid-19 patients and deaths at the hospital, despite revelations that at least two patients who died appear to have contracted the virus at the hospital, having been admitted for non-Covid-19-related symptoms.

The scrutiny of infection control procedures at the hospital intensified last week after a number of MUH staff spoke anonymously to RTÉ Radio’s Drivetime programme and testified to the fact that crossover between Covid-19 and non-Covid-19 patients was continuing at the hospital.

It was also claimed that staff have been threatened with disciplinary action if they are found to have discussed the operations of the facility with anyone outside of the hospital.

Mr Kilcoyne said it was proving unbelievably difficult to get any detailed information about the management of Covid-19 at MUH from the health authority. Questions he had tabled about the Covid-19 incidence in the hospital via the Regional Health Forum West on May 6 have yet to be answered.

The Western People sought similar MUH-specific data from the Saolta group last Thursday on behalf of the family of the late Jackie Carolan of Bellacorick who passed away in a Covid-19 bay at MUH on April 1, having been admitted to a non-Covid-19 ward for stroke treatment on March 18. He was tested for Covid-19 and two days after his death the test results were confirmed as positive.

The data which was sought included the number of patients admitted to MUH for non-Covid-19 conditions; the number of those that tested positive for Covid-19 while in the hospital and the number of those who tested positive for Covid-19 after being admitted to MUH for non-Covid-19 conditions that passed away at the hospital during and since the period of Mr Carolan’s treatment.

Saolta referred the Western People to various online sources for Covid-19 data, none of which contained the hospital-specific data sought. When we pointed this out, Saolta replied that the data provided is among the agreed datasets being published currently by the HSE, HPSC, and Department of Health. No further breakdown of data is currently published.

It went on to say that the appropriate control measures are currently in place in MUH in relation to the management of Covid-19 and that the number of confirmed cases at the hospital is continuing to decrease.

Cllr Michael Kilcoyne is ‘very disappointed’ that only one of Mayo’s four TDs has raised the situation at MUH with the Minister for Health Simon Harris.

Mr Kilcoyne said it was a very serious matter that staff who are treating Covid-19 patients are not being tested for the virus themselves, adding that the same staff may have a certain amount of contact with non-Covid patients in the hospital, not to mention the people the staff live with.

Noting the disproportionately high incidence of confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mayo, Cllr Kilcoyne said the scenario in the hospital had to be contributing to the spread of the virus in the county.

“There is no other reason. It’s not that the people of Mayo are more delicate than the people of Galway, Sligo, Leitrim or Roscommon.”

He said it was very disappointing that only one of Mayo’s four TDs, Deputy Dara Calleary, had raised the situation at MUH with the Minister for Health Simon Harris. The councillor argued that hospital-specific Covid-19 data should be made available to the public as a right and repeated his call for the Department to send someone in to take over the management of the hospital.

Responding to Saolta’s response to the Western People’s request for MUH-specific Covid-19 data, Ms Teresa Shaw, daughter of the late Jackie Carolan, said: “At this stage it is frustrating and upsetting that the management are refusing to answer the questions asked of them. The CEO [of Saolta] has admitted on air that staff were looking after Covid and non-Covid patients and that’s it.

“I ask myself does the CEO not realise that death has been the result of the above practice and families are going through a lot of grief and pain. In my opinion, the CEO and management of MUH should be made step down,” she concluded, adding that infection control at the hospital should also be investigated.

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