THE Clinical Director for Obstetrics and Gynaecology within the Northern Trust has said the risk to patients who came into contact with a Mid-Ulster Hospital staff member who has recently been diagnosed with Hepatitis C is ‘very small.’
Speaking to the MAIL shortly after the news came through, Dr Robin Ashe said he wants to encourage hospital patients who were treated in the Maternity and Gynaecology Department in Mid-Ulster Hospital between January 11 and November 4 1979 to contact a helpline set up as a precaution.
There is only a small chance that a person might have the Hepatitis C virus transmitted through contact with the infected healthcare worker. However, transmission is rare. Most people initially show no symptoms and can remain well for a number of years.
Dr Robin Ashe explained: “We appreciate the concern and distress that this may cause and are therefore offering screening, as a precaution, to anyone who was treated in the unit during the defined time period.”
The helpline 028 9442 4804 is open seven days a week from 8.30am to 8.30pm and staff will be able to guide you as to whether you need to have a blood test undertaken.
The Trust is keen to stress that only patients who were treated during these dates should come forward to ensure the helpline is kept free.
The Trust is currently reviewing patients’ notes for the timeframe in question however, given that it was over 30 years ago, it is proving challenging to source detailed notes for all patients - particularly as they could have changed name or address.
The Trust says an extensive verification exercise is currently ongoing and that it hopes to confirm contact details for many of the patients concerned.
Assessment clinics will open from 8.30am until 8.30pm from tomorrow (Thursday) until they are no longer required.
The venue, date and time of the appointment will be confirmed with each patient required to attend and results will be available within a week. Effective treatments are available for Hepatitis C and further information and advice will also be provided to anyone who needs it.
Hepatitis C is not uncommon. As many as one in 250 people across the UK carry the Hepatitis C infection and it does not automatically lead to healthcare problems.
The staff member also worked at other hospitals across the UK and similar look back exercises are taking place in parallel across hospitals in England, Scotland and Wales. The healthcare worker did not work in any other hospital in Northern Ireland and the Northern Trust is working closely with the Public Health Agency, the Health and Social Care Board and the Department of Health in dealing with this matter.