A LEVEL Three Serious Adverse Incident Review has commenced at Antrim Area Hospital into the deaths of two patients earlier this year from COVID-19.
The Northern Health and Social Care Trust also confirmed that 24 staff members tested positive for COVID-19 between April 1 and May 11.
Recent months have seen a raft of emergency measures at the hospital, including strict rules on how and where staff can gather at meal times. Front line workers also have their temperatures taken every time they enter the building.
Pam Cameron, the Deputy chair of Stormont’s Health Committee, said the Northern Trust had a duty to provide urgent answers to the families.
“The Level Two Serious Adverse Incident previously initiated has now been heightened to a Level Three probe.
“It is vital that the review into these circumstances at Antrim Area Hospital is speedily progressed to maintain public and staff confidence, and ensure any necessary action is taken.”
Mrs Cameron acknowledged that the virus had already taken its toll on local hospital workers.
“Earlier this year, a COVID outbreak amongst staff on the C6 ward resulted in 22 members testing positive and a further two on ward C7.
“Having spoken with the Chief Executive of the Trust, they are very clear that there is presently no evidence of staff to patient transmission during that period and precautionary measures were implemented.”
The DUP rep added that the probe should not reflect on the sterling work on the COVID frontline.
“It is important for me to also state that the staff at Antrim Area Hospital are dedicated professionals who have been serving our community under extremely challenging circumstances,” she said.
“Their work has been exceptional throughout this pandemic.
“This review is about determining what has occurred and safeguarding all those within this Hospital setting, including all staff and patients, as best as possible.
“I would urge the Health Minister to appoint a Chair for this investigation urgently.
“The two families tragically affected by this situation require answers.”
On the very day the South Antrim MLA issued that call, Minister Robin Swann confirmed that new measures were being rolled out to protect vulnerable people during the anticipated second wave.
From last Thursday all health and social care facilities in Northern Ireland were ordered to move to facilitate one face-to-face visit per week by one person.
“The province-wide guidance applies to hospital and care homes as well as other facilities,” he said.
“It has been drawn up to protect patients, residents and staff from COVID-19 while recognising the importance of human contact to health and well-being.
“Health Trusts and care homes will implement more localised and tighter restrictions in the event of outbreaks.
“I fully recognise how difficult and upsetting it is for people in care homes and hospitals not to see their loved ones.
“The new guidance seeks to take a balanced approach recognising the growing COVID-19 threat and the importance of family contacts.
“I don’t want to see doors being fully closed to visiting at this time - providing there is no outbreak in the facility.
“The visiting guidance will be kept under ongoing review.
“Every effort should continue to be made to enable other forms of visiting to ensure residents and patients maintain important social connections through the use of technology.
“Additional advice on compassionate visits, for instance for those receiving end of life and palliative care, should be facilitated.”