The chief executive of the Southern Health Trust has apologised following the death of a fourth haematology patient at Craigavon Area Hospital who had tested positive for Covid-19.
Shane Devlin said he and the trust were “truly sorry for what has happened”.
Following the death on Monday, Health Minister Robin Swann announced a level three Serious Adverse Incident (SAI) investigation.
Seven patients on the Haematology ward remain “very unwell”.
Fourteen patients on the the ward were confirmed to have the virus in a cluster identified last week, while another patient on Ward 3 South also tested positive.
Twenty one members of staff, across the two wards, tested positive for Covid-19 and a further 56 are also self-isolating because of potential contact with the virus.
Meanwhile, the department of health revealed on Tuesday there had been a further two deaths in Northern Ireland linked to Covid-19.
Both were men living in the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area. One of them was over 80 years of age and the other was aged between 60 to 79.
A further 40 positive cases of Covid-19 have been recorded, bringing the total to 7,908.
The chief executive of the Southern Trust said the organisation would cooperate fully with the SAI review which has been announced.
Mr Devlin told Good Morning Ulster the trust “will be investigating thoroughly to understand what has happened, to make sure we can learn, because we need to learn”.
He said he was confident the outbreaks at Craigavon Area Hospital are now “under control”.
“There is still a considerable human impact and we need to work with families to get through that,” he added.
He said the important thing was to try and pin-point how the virus had entered the hospital wards in the first place.
- Family want answers about Covid-19 hospital death
- Third Covid-19 outbreak at Craigavon Area Hospital
Families ‘deserve answers’
SDLP MLA for Newry and Armagh Justin McNulty said it has been “devastatingly traumatic for the families involved”.
He has spoken to some of those who have lost family members and told Good Morning Ulster they “want answers and they deserve answers”.
“Their loved ones went into hospital Covid-free and the virus has been transmitted to them inside the ward,” he said.
“They are really angry about that and feel that their loved ones should still be with them.”
Ring of Steel
Mr McNulty described a meeting with Mr Devlin to discuss the deaths as “frank and blunt”.
He said he had relayed some concerns raised by the families of those who died about “some inconsistencies that didn’t sit well with them”.
The SDLP MLA said he was hopeful the independent inquiry would get to the bottom of what caused the outbreak, and that lessons will be learned.
“This ward, the patients are immuno-compromised. You would hope there would have been a ring of steel around the ward, but sadly that wasn’t the case.
“We might never get an explanation for how the virus got into the ward, but hopefully the investigation will unearth that.”