HEALTH chiefs at the Northern Trust have come under fire for their handling of the Hepatitis C scare at the Mid Ulster Hospital.
Patricia Cunningham from Drumullan, outside Moneymore was one of the women who was treated by the gynaecologist in 1979, who was later diagnosed with the disease.
The Mid Ulster Mail can also reveal the scale of the health scare, with more than 650 people contacting the helpline and 295 women coming forward for tests.
Thankfully, Mrs Cunningham - a mother of six - was given the all-clear after she came forward for tests.
However, Patricia said she cannot understand why she was not contacted directly by the Northern Health Trust, claiming the trust had her name on record.
She says the stress associated with the Hepatitis C scare was compounded by the fact that she only became aware through a radio news bulletin.
“It was very scary hearing it on the radio, you didn’t know what is was all about,” said Patricia.
“They could have handled it a lot better.
“Most people have the same GP, your GP should have your medical records, so I think it should have been the GP who could have rang us and explained what was going on instead of hearing about it for the first time on the radio.
“It caused a lot of stress at the time, especially for people in my age group, who may have other health problems - to hear that sort of news on the radio is very distressing.”
Patricia said her sister-in-law and another friend had also been treated by the same gynaecologist, but were also given the all-clear after blood tests.
A spokesperson for the Northern Trust defended their handling of the health scare.
“The communications plan for the Hepatitis C look back exercise was agreed in collaboration with the Public Health Agency in line with the other regions in the UK.
“Given the historical nature of this review the Trust had challenges identifying the complete list of clients.
“The media was used to raise awareness among those who may have been affected offering advice, support and guidance using a dedicated helpline”.
The Northern Trust confirmed that as of October 8, there were 665 calls to the helpline and 295 appointments offered to patients.