The family of a disabled boy who has been “stuck” in hospital unnecessarily for a year have been evicted from their temporary accommodation by the charity division of the McDonald’s fast food chain because of coronavirus concerns.
The boy’s local MP, Lucy Powell for Manchester Central, described the incident as “extremely disappointing” and said she was “pretty disgusted” after the family was asked on Wednesday night to leave Ronald McDonald House, a block of flats opposite Royal Manchester children’s hospital that houses families while their child is in hospital, funded by McDonald’s.
Ten-year-old Ahmed, who has developmental disabilities including cerebral palsy and scoliosis, is fed through a tube and is registered blind.
He was admitted to the hospital on 1 March last year with breathing difficulties. Within six weeks, he had recovered enough to be discharged, but his doctors refused to let him leave because the family were homeless and “sofa surfing” in a friend’s living room.
After the Guardian reported on his plight this month, Manchester city council found the family a suitable home in south Manchester. They were unable to move in straight away as the house is not yet inhabitable. Renovation works were postponed as the coronavirus hit and the family had to continue their stay in Ronald McDonald House.
On Wednesday night, Ahmed’s mother, who the Guardian has agreed not to name to protect the family, said she was told the family had to leave Ronald McDonald House because of fears Ahmed may have coronavirus and could have passed it to them.
Ahmed developed a cough this week and was tested for coronavirus. At the time of the family’s eviction the results had not come back, but on Thursday the hospital said he had tested negative.
Powell said she was working with council officials to find a resolution for the family.
“Myself and Manchester city council – at the highest level – are extremely disappointed with the actions of Ronald McDonald House. We are pretty disgusted. This is not how anyone should be treated,” the MP said.
“The family have hotel accommodation now and [the council] is expediting the adaptions to the house and are working on them with universal credit issues too.”
Ahmed’s parents and two siblings are currently in an aparthotel in Manchester city centre, paid for by the council.
Ahmed’s mother pleaded with McDonald’s to let the family return to Ronald McDonald House so she could be near her son. She said restrictions on public transport made it difficult to reach the hospital from the hotel.
“The result of examining my son is negative and he is in good health and also all my family. We do not have any symptoms. In addition, I will not be able to follow the government’s law and stay at home,” she said.
“Please, we are a very vulnerable family. We have a lot of problems and stress. Me and my children have experienced difficult times in our journey. We only want the opportunity to stay beside my son and take care of the three children during these difficult circumstances.”
Jon Haward, the executive director of Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, said: “At Ronald McDonald House Charities UK, we continue to care for those families whose children are undergoing critical care in hospital at this time.
“During Ahmed’s treatment, his family stayed with us in one of our houses. When the time came for him to be discharged from hospital care, the specialist housing he required was not yet available to him. We therefore made the decision to accommodate his family on a short-term basis in good faith until his housing was ready. We understand that Ahmed continues to be in the care of the hospital.
“Due to the ever-evolving coronavirus (Covid-19) situation, we have taken vital measures to safeguard the health and wellbeing of our staff and other families in our houses. This means reducing the number of families in our houses at any one time and temporarily suspending new intakes of families. This also means we cannot re-admit families who have left our houses. These decisions are by no means easy to make, but we are adhering to the government guidelines as closely as possible. This includes advice about social distancing and how movement between ‘households’ should be prohibited, due to risk of infection.
“We wholeheartedly sympathise with the difficulties Ahmed’s family is facing. In light of the pandemic we continue to take these special measures, in keeping with hospital and government guidelines.”
Suzanne Richards, Manchester city council’s executive member for housing and regeneration, said: “We are committed to helping Ahmed’s family in any way we can during this challenging time and crucially we will make sure they do not face homelessness.
“We will support the family with paid-for hotel accommodation until they can move directly into their fully adapted home, which we hope will be available next week. A dedicated support worker will remain in contact with the family through this period to ensure they receive any further welfare support that they are entitled to.”