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Patient transferred to England for specialist treatment

Thursday, 1 October 2009

A patient from Northern Ireland who is suffering from severe complications related to swine flu has been transferred to Leicester for specialist treatment.

The woman who was a patient in the South Eastern Trust area needs a highly specialised procedure known as Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation (ECMO).

Health Minister, Michael McGimpsey said: "This patient has suffered severe complications and requires urgent and highly specialised treatment. My thoughts are with this patient's family at this very worrying time. No further information will be given out at this stage and I would ask everyone to respect the privacy of the family.

"Leicester has the only national ECMO unit for adults and provides these specialist services for patients across the UK. There are currently plans to double the capacity at the centre to ensure that we are able to respond to any increased demand arising from the swine flu pandemic.

"Incidents of swine flu in Northern Ireland are continuing to rise. This week GP consultations increased by 46% and consultations to out of hours services also increased by 43%. We also saw a significant increase in the number of antivirals prescribed. However, more worrying is the 124% increase in the number of people hospitalised.

"Swine flu remains a major public health threat but we are well prepared and have been planning for a pandemic for some time."

Chief Medical Officer, Dr Michael McBride said: "ECMO is a highly specialised treatment which is indicated for a very small number of people. It involves taking over the function of the heart and lungs when they are severely damaged, adding oxygen to the blood outside the body.

"For the vast majority of people, swine flu remains a mild illness, however, some people will require hospital care and in some cases admission to intensive care. All of us in the health service have been planning and preparing to deal with any increased pressure on our services."

Notes to editors:

  • The full weekly flu bulletin is available at www.dhsspsni.gov.uk and www.nidirect.gov.uk
  • Media enquiries to the DHSSPS Press Office on 028 9052 0579. Out of office hours contact the Duty Press Officer via pager number 076 9971 5440 and your call will be returned.