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20/10/2017

Hospital To Establish Food-Free Specialised Waiting Room

A hospital has agreed to establish a specialised waiting room where no eating or drinking is allowed after a mother of two children with life-threatening allergies took a discrimination case.

Maire-Iosa McVicker's has daughters Aoibhe, 7, and Meabh O'Donnell, 3, who have food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome (FPIES), which means they have very severe physical reactions leading to physiological shock when they come into contact with certain trigger foods, and Aoibhe also has idiopathic anaphylaxis.

With the support of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, she brought a case against the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, following two incidents at the allergy clinic in the Ulster Hospital where the girls attend regular appointments.

The waiting room used for the allergy clinic originally had signs forbidding eating and drinking because of the dangers they posed to children attending. When the signs were removed, the O'Donnell family encountered two instances where people were eating and drinking in the waiting room. On the first instance, when Aoibhe was 6, she experienced an allergic reaction which caused her distress. On the second occasion, Ms McVicker removed her daughters from the room to keep them safe.
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"I came to the Equality Commission because I was worried sick about the exposure of my girls to what could be a life-threatening allergic reaction. I felt that the Trust, by allowing people to eat in the waiting room, had failed to make a reasonable adjustment which would help safeguard my daughters’ health," said Ms McVicker.

"The solution that the Trust has come up with should now deal with this problem, which has been a great relief to me," she added. "The refurbishment of the hospital's paediatric unit will now include a separate waiting room where no eating and drinking will be allowed, which will be of huge benefit to my children and to any others with similar conditions. Until that's ready, we have an interim solution in place. I appreciate the efforts made by hospital management to come up with a solution to the problems we were encountering."

Seamus McGoran, Director, Hospital Services, South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust, said: "We recognise the challenges faced by children and parents living with complex allergies and are delighted that we have been able to find a solution for Aoibhe, Meabh and others when they attend for appointments."

Anne McKernan, Head of Legal Services at the Equality Commission, said: "This is a good example where, by using the opportunity provided by a refurbishment already scheduled, a reasonable adjustment has been made which will be of great benefit to the O'Donnell family and others in their position. Every organisation providing services to the public, whether public or private, has a duty to make reasonable adjustments to make it easier for people with disabilities to use their services. In this case the settlement involves no monetary compensation – but it does contain undertakings to provide a safe place for two little girls with a rare and serious condition."

(CD)


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