Page last updated at 12:40 GMT, Monday, 19 October 2009 13:40 UK

Schools need swine flu 'rethink'

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The story is reported in the Sunday Journal newspaper

The principal of a special needs school has said there needs to be a rethink on how schools deal with swine flu.

Colm Davis, head teacher of Torr Bank, said accurate information needs to be made available to schools and parents.

"We need to think about how the information is communicated and there has to be a high degree of openness."

It emerged this week the family of Orla O'Kane, 14, a pupil at a special school in Londonderry, was told she had swine flu two days after her funeral.

The health minister asked the chief medical officer to convene an emergency meeting on Monday following the death of Orla O'Kane.

The Western Trust has said it will prevent similar delays in future.

It said it "regretted" distress caused to the O'Kane family by the delay.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride said the meeting will involve representatives from the trust, the Department of Health and the Public Health Agency.

He said he wished to pass on his sympathy to the O'Kane family.

"It is extremely regrettable that there was a delay in the family receiving the confirmation of swine flu, particularly at a time when they were already going through such a personal tragedy," Dr McBride said.

"Our first priority must be to find out the exact details of what happened and how the delay occurred, and to make sure that this does not happen again.

"We must ensure that we learn lessons from what happened here."

Five confirmed cases

Orla was a pupil at Foyle View Special School. The principal, Michael Dobbins, said that staff and pupils had been "devastated" by her death.

"She was just such a lovely girl and she brightened up the lives of anyone that she met," Mr Dobbins said.

There have now been five confirmed cases of swine flu at Foyle View school.

Three pupils have made a full recovery and one pupil is still in hospital.

Mr Dobbins said that he was continuing to liaise with the Public Health Agency about what action to take.

"The advice was to continue as normal, that if any child presents with any symptoms, they should be kept in quarantine and their parents sent for," Mr Dobbins said.

The O'Kane family are said to be especially concerned because her school friends and elderly neighbours were among those who attended the wake.

Another member of the family is now said to be suffering from the virus.

'Saddened'

In a statement, the Western Trust expressed its deepest sympathy to the O'Kane family.

It said their daughter, who had suffered from cerebral palsy, was "well known to Trust staff over many years" and added that they were "very saddened" by her death.

The statement continued: "The trust is reviewing the issues that have been raised to fully understand how delays occurred confirming that swine flu was present, and will agree measures to prevent similar circumstances in the future.

"Clearly these delays caused further distress for the family and that is very regrettable."

In terms of risk to anyone who had been in contact with the child, the trust said that "the existing advice still applies".

It said anyone who thinks that they may have symptoms of swine flu should contact their GP or out-of-hours service by telephone for advice and assessment.

Orla is the seventh person from Northern Ireland who has died while suffering from the virus.

Five died in NI while the other two victims died in England and Spain.



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