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Loughgilly man being treated for cancer at Craigavon Hospital passes away after contracting Covid-19

A Co. Armagh man who was undergoing cancer treatment on the haematology ward at Craigavon Area Hospital has passed away after contracting Covid -19.

John Fleming, from Loughgilly, passed away peacefully in hospital on Thursday. 

The 79-year-old was diagnosed with the coronavirus on August 17 at Craigavon Area Hospital, just days before he was due to be discharged.

The father-of-four, grandfather and great-grandfather, was being treated on the haematology ward for myeloma – a blood cancer. He was one of two patients on the ward to pass away this week.

Mr Fleming’s daughter, Yvonne Stewart, told the BBC her father wanted answers.

“When I went in to see him, he said, ‘I didn’t bargain for this – I don’t want to die, I’m afraid of dying’,” said Mrs Stewart.

“He asked me to tell his story because he didn’t want another family to go through what we have been through.

“To watch him not being able to breathe, and his whole body moving to try and breathe, and trying to fight for breath, it was shocking.

“The staff in haematology and in the respiratory ward couldn’t have done anything more for him, but what I would like to know and what my mother would like to know is how this virus got through the hospital defences into his ward.

“We can’t get our head around it.”

Dr Maria O’Kane, medical director of the Southern Health Trust, speaking to the BBC Radio Ulster’s Evening Extra programme said she could “completely understand” the family’s concerns.

“Again I can’t say it strongly enough, we are extremely sorry that this has happened,” she added.

“Haematology is an area where they are always very particular about infection prevention control and that it is concerning to us, that even in an area where there are very strict measures and where it is constantly checked and audited that actually this virus is so contagious that it can still manifest itself there,” she said.

“In addition, because of the nature of the patients who are looked after there, because they tend to be very immune-compromised for a variety of reasons, they are very vulnerable to picking up the virus.

“It would never be our intention to expose anyone to this and again in trying to understand how this came into the haematology setting, we are carrying out a review.”

A funeral notice for Mr Fleming said he was the beloved husband of Ann, dear father of Yvonne, David, Anthony and Andrew, a devoted grandfather and great grandfather.

House and funeral strictly private due to government restrictions.

No flowers please donations in lieu if desired for Macmillan Nursing Care c/o K G Cheevers and Son, Funeral Directors, 28 Dobbin Street, Armagh, BT61 7QQ.

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