Swine flu death woman's family criticises hospital care

Image caption,
Sarah Howard suffered multiple organ failure

The family of a woman who died of swine flu about two weeks after giving birth has criticised medical staff for not diagnosing the virus sooner.

Sarah Howard, 20, from Blackley, was suffering flu-like symptoms when she went into labour at North Manchester General Hospital on 5 December.

She suffered multiple organ failure about 24 hours after giving birth to son Harry and died on 18 December.

The hospital said it was happy to discuss her care with the family.

Ms Howard was suffering from headaches, sickness and a painful chest when she went into the hospital to give birth, her family said.

But she had not been diagnosed as suffering from the H1N1 virus when she was admitted to the intensive care unit, where she had to be resuscitated, they added.

Doctors at North Manchester decided to send her to Glenfield Hospital, in Leicester, for specialist extra corporeal membrane oxygenation (Ecmo) treatment.

Prince William flew the RAF Helicopter which brought a portable Ecmo machine and staff to complete the transfer.

It was after she was transferred to Leicester that she was diagnosed as suffering from swine flu.

Her father Mark Howard, from Wythenshawe, said: "Why didn't they pick up swine flu? They're supposed to be the professionals at the end of the day. If they don't know what the symptoms are, how is Joe Public supposed to know?"

Ms Howard's step-mother, Kelly Sarginson, added: "If it had been picked up then [during labour], we're not saying the outcome would have been any different but she might have been that little bit stronger that she might have been able to fight it. She had the classic symptoms."

Ms Sarginson told the BBC her step-daughter had not been offered the swine flu vaccine by her GP and was not aware of the Department of Health advice for pregnant woman to seek it.

Mr Howard said: "She's been failed by the government. They are well aware of how serious it is. They should be informing midwives about what to look for."

A spokesman for the Pennine Acute Hospitals NHS Trust said its "sympathy and sincere condolences" were with the family.

"If they wish to discuss any aspect of care we would be happy to do that."

The Department of Health said the chief medical officer wrote to GPs in May informing them to offer pregnant women the seasonal flu vaccine.

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