Jemima Burke, who recently wrote in the Connaught Telegraph about the tragic death of Sally Maaz (17) in Mayo University Hospital, was one of the journalists present at the daily briefings of the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) on Wednesday.
At it Ms. Burke questioned the Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Tony Holohan, about why the Leaving Certificate student, who had reportedly tested negative for Covid-19 on two occasions, was put on the coronavirus ward at the hospital.
Ms Maaz had been admitted to hospital with back pains and respiratory issues, but also suffered from congential heart problems. Once on the ward she eventually tested positive for the virus and died ten days later.
After explaining the contents of the statement released by Maaz’s parents, Ms. Burke asked if Dr. Holohan could confirm whether hospital patients who have not tested positive for Covid-19 are being “admitted to Covid-19 wards?”
Dr. Holohan however said he was not willing to comment on the case, and didn’t seem to answer the question either. It got more heated however.
When Dr. Holohan was repeatedly pressed for an answer as to whether patients who have not tested positive are being admitted to Covid-19 wards, Burke’s mic was turned off mid-sentence. You can watch the exchanges here:
— Jemima Burke (@JemimaBurkeIRL) May 6, 2020
Holohan’s seeming unwillingness to give a clear Yes or No answer to the question could be a cause of concern to some members of the public who are already reluctant to present at hospitals, with footage of the rest of the exchange showing he would only confirm that “it is not policy.”
But a similarly significant implication of the exchange is his press handler’s apparent aversion to allowing interrogation and confrontation, with Burke’s mic being repeatedly cut-off as the questioning continued. You can watch the rest from 46.25.
To turn off the mic mid-sentence because of the tone or substance of the question would normally cause an outcry from journalistic colleagues, but not apparently in the prosaic world of messenger boys who appear shocked that someone would rock the boat.
Burke’s contribution was certainly atypical, but here’s what one fellow journalist decided to focus on afterwards:
2/ There is a woman called Jemima Burke though, who may be related to the family who were banned for life from all student societies at NUI Galway.https://t.co/6YyJiX8GUB
— Stephen McDermott (@Ste_McDermott) May 6, 2020
People like Ms. Burke might be among the few really delivering news, whether its to the west or elsewhere.