Swine flu death count demand

Foyle MLA Pól Callaghan has demanded that health chiefs reveal how many people have died from swine flu in Derry.

The Assemblyman is to put the question to the Public Health Agency (PHA) when representatives meet with the Stormont’s Health Committee, on which he sits, on Thursday morning.

Mr Callaghan, who called for the meeting to be set up, said last night that the people of Derry deserved to know the extent of the spread of the deadly H1N1 virus in the city - after it was revealed that 14 people had so far died across the North and at least one patient had succumbed to swine flu at Altnagelvin Hospital. “I’ll be requesting a sub regional breakdown of the figures in terms of how many people have been diagnosed and how many people have died locally.”

He said that the refusal of the PHA and the Western Health Trust to reveal the number of deaths from swine flu in the North West “only breeds suspicion and concern”. He also called on Health Minister Michael McGimpsey to reveal the figure.

“Nobody is suggesting that the personal details of any patient should be made public without authorisation but it is quite another thing to refuse to state how many of these deaths have hit the Western area or indeed taken place at Altnagelvin.”

Sinn Féin Councillor Paul Fleming has accused Mr McGimpsey of ‘going missing on the job’.

“At present there are 33 people in a critical condition as a result of swine flu in the North. Last month there were 185 people being treated for the virus. Yet the Health Minister went on his Christmas holidays and has remained silent,” Councillor Fleming claimed.