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‘Families deserve answers’

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One in five of Mayo’s Covid dead contracted the virus in MUH

Edwin McGreal

Of the total Covid-19 deaths in Mayo since the start of the pandemic, fully 20 percent were among people who had contracted the virus after being admitted to Mayo University Hospital (MUH).
A total of 45 people have died after contracting the virus in MUH, according to Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) figures covering the start of the pandemic up to December 8.
The HPSC figures reveal there were 227 Covid-19 deaths in Mayo up to December 14 – making it the county with the second-highest death rate per 100,000 in the country (173.9), with only Louth suffering a higher rate (174.6 deaths per 100,000).

‘Unforgivable’
“What has happened in MUH is unforgivable,” Cllr Michael Kilcoyne told The Mayo News. “If these people did not go to MUH, there is every chance they would be still alive and sitting around the family table for Christmas dinner.
“You are meant to go to hospital to be looked after, to get better.
"You are not meant to go in there and be given a deadly virus that will kill you,” he added.
Cllr Kilcoyne has repeatedly asked for the MUH Covid death figure to be revealed over the course of the past year. The Mayo News had also sought the figure from Saolta, the hospital group for the northwest, without success.  
“I’ve been asking for this information all along,” Cllr Kilcoyne said, “because reports coming from the hospital about practices in there were bad.”
He continued: “It was denied at various stages by the HSE that cross-contamination was happening, where staff were working in Covid wards and non-Covid wards.
“The people of Mayo deserve an independent public inquiry about what happened with Covid-19 at MUH … It was total neglect.”

Accountability
The figures were obtained by The Sunday Independent in a Freedom of Information request from the HPSC.
MUH had the highest number of hospital-contracted Covid deaths in Connacht and was the seventh-highest in the country overall, behind St Vincent’s (77), St James’s (69), University Hospital Limerick (64), Tallaght (60), Cork University Hospital (55) and Beaumont (53).
Galway University Hospital (GUH), by comparison, had just one fifth of MUH’s figures, with nine such deaths.  
“The figure is five times that of Galway University Hospital – a much bigger hospital,” said Cllr Kilcoyne.
“That’s 45 people who contracted Covid-19 in Mayo University Hospital and died as a result. It cannot be the fault of the patients that five times more people died in MUH as GUH, it has to be the fault of the hospital.
“Ultimately, responsibility rests with the Department of Health and the Minister for Health.
“Why didn’t what was happening there not raise alarm bells with someone? It should have. For the size of the hospital in Mayo, that is a very high number.
“Mayo has had a very high death rate and nobody knew what was going on. We are starting to find out now. But who will be held accountable?
“One in five of people in Mayo who died from Covid-19 did so because they went into MUH and contracted the virus there. Many of them went in with a routine issue and they picked up the virus and died. Their families deserve answers,” added Cllr Kilcoyne.

HPSC criteria
The HPSC applies the following criteria for identifying hospital-acquired Covid-19:
1. Onset of clinical features of Covid-19 seven days or more after admission.
2. Onset of clinical features of Covid-19 between days three and six after admission, if epidemiologically linked to hospital exposure.
3. Onset of clinical features of Covid-19 on day one or two after admission are considered community acquired, unless epidemiologically linked to hospital exposure during a recent hospital admission.
4. If onset of clinical features cannot be defined, a case-by-case assessment is required taking account of the date of sampling relative to the date of admission, the Ct [value of the test result and epidemiological evidence of a link to hospital exposure. [The Ct, or ‘cycle threshold’, value refers to the cycle number where a sample turns from negative to positive, with a low Ct means there is a lot of virus present.]

Saolta response
The Mayo News contacted Saolta for comment on the latest revelations. Responding, the hospital group for the northwest said the information was released by the HPSC. It added that the cause of death has not yet been determined by a coroner in the majority of these cases. “It is important to note that when community transmission rates are at a high level, it is inevitable and unavoidable that there will be outbreaks in hospitals, particularly in the months before the protection offered by the vaccination programme was being seen.
“All hospitals across the Saolta Group strictly adhere to public health guidance, infection and prevention control. We can reassure the public that management and staff are doing everything possible to reduce the risk of transmission of Covid-19 in our hospitals and to protect vulnerable patients.
“We express our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of all patients with Covid-19 who have died in our care,” the hospital group stated.