Saturday 20 January 2018

HSE defends Ebola alert as dead man's family hits out

Tests were carried out on the body of Dessie Quinn (inset) at Letterkenny General Hospital
Tests were carried out on the body of Dessie Quinn (inset) at Letterkenny General Hospital

Greg Harkin

THE HSE has defended its handling of the Ebola scare amid angry criticism from relatives of the dead man at the centre of the alert.

Dessie Quinn (44) had been suffering from malaria but was well enough to ask his Dublin-based company if he could return to work in Sierra Leone.

Just days later, the father of one was found dead by relatives at the family home just outside the village of Mountcharles in south west Donegal.

He may have had underlying health issues, friends said. A post-mortem examination was under way last night.

The HSE rigorously defended its handling of the case, saying it issued the statement following media inquiries.

While it didn't name Mr Quinn in its statement, relatives and friends knew straight away.

"I have spoken to the family who were already distraught at the sudden death of this young man and they strongly believe that the HSE should never have issued any statement," said local independent TD Thomas Pringle.

"It took less than 18 hours for it to be confirmed that Mr Quinn had not been suffering from the Ebola virus and his heartbroken relatives should have been spared the international attention the statement provoked."

Deputy Pringle insisted: "Once RTE reported that the man was from south west Donegal it didn't take the brains of an archbishop to work out that it was Mr Quinn. They all but named him.

"The family wants space to grieve in private. But they also want the HSE to explain its actions. They are angry. It appears a cousin or someone was told but not siblings."

This was backed up by local curate Fr Adrian Gavigan who insisted: "Relatives learned of this health alert on the teatime news. We always believed his malaria was the cause."

Mr Quinn worked as an engineer with KN Network Services, which is based in Dublin.

The company won a contract last December to provide 600km of internet cabling in the country from Freetown to the borders of Guinea and Liberia.

Mr Quinn joined the company in January and flew to Freetown in February.

He was treated for mild symptoms of malaria in July before flying home to Ireland on July 31 for two weeks annual leave.

He told his bosses of his intention to return on August 14 but was told to stay in Ireland as by that stage KN Network Services decided to fly its remaining nine Irish staff home as the Ebola virus spread inside Sierra Leone.

The staff were screened in Sierra Leone and again in Dublin when they arrived back last Sunday. No-one was ill.

In a statement a company spokesman said: "Dessie was an extremely hard working and valued member of staff who was very popular with all his colleagues and he will be missed by everybody who worked with him

"The company has offered its support to the Quinn family in Donegal.

"They also continue to liaise on an ongoing basis with Dessie's colleagues who worked with him in Sierra Leone."

The HSE defended its handling of the case, which was reported worldwide.

A spokeswoman said: "The HSE was in contact with some family members from the outset of the tragic situation and updated them a number of times over the course of the day.

"The story broke in the media just before 6pm on Thursday at which point the HSE had to make a public statement on the matter, given the urgency and nature of what was a potential public health issue."

The HSE also said it did not identify Mr Quinn.

Irish Independent

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