Child’s death was linked to pigeon droppings at showpiece hospital

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Health Secretary Jeane Freeman.

By Bill Heaney

An infection linked to pigeon droppings was a “contributing factor” in the death of a child at the showpiece Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, it has been confirmed.

Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman ordered a review of the design of the hospital, which cost nearly £1 billion and accommodates patients from West Dunbartonshire and Argyll, after the deaths of two patients there.

She said  there was an “absolute focus on patient safety” and that the hospital  has put infection control measures in place, making it safe for patients and visitors.

At the weekend, it emerged that two patients who had died at the hospital had contracted a cryptococcal fungal infection which is linked to pigeon droppings.

Ms Freeman said one of the patients was elderly and had died from an unrelated cause, but that the infection had been a “contributing factor” in the death of a child.

The likely source of the infection has been traced to a 12th floor room containing machinery, which is not open to the public.

Ms Freeman said traces of pigeon droppings had been found in the room, where there was a small break in the wall which was “invisible to the naked eye”.

She revealed in her Holyrood statement that the hospital was also investigating a separate, “totally unconnected” infection, after two patients tested positive for a different fungal organism.

A water leak has been identified as the “likely source”, but the health board said “other investigations continue”.

The identification of two cases acted as the trigger for additional infection control measures at the hospital, including anti-fungal treatment for potentially vulnerable patients.

grant jane health board ceo 1The health secretary said the Health Board, led by Chief Executive Jane Grant,  pictured left, had kept patients and their families updated on an ongoing basis and would ensure they had the opportunity to discuss concerns with the senior clinical team.

Portable air filter units have been installed in specific areas as an additional precaution. There have been no further cases reported.

Ms Freeman said a review of the hospital’s design and construction would take into account “a number of issues” from recent years.

She said: “There are two strands to this. The first is to deal with the current infection, which the board has done thoroughly, they’ve taken all the measures they should take.

“The other is the building itself. We need to be absolutely sure about the current state of this infrastructure – what do we need to fix, how has that arisen, and what are the lessons for our build elsewhere in the health service.

“That may be in aspects of the design that we weren’t aware of at the time, it might be in aspects of the commissioning, it might be maintenance, or maybe a combination of all of those.

“That work has already been scoped out, and towards the end of this week I will agree with the board what external independent advice they will bring in to ensure that work is taken forward and that I’m assured that we do that as thoroughly and quickly as we possibly can.”

Multiplex. the building firm which worked on the design and construction of the hospital, said it had not been contacted about the review but “will of course assist with the Queen Elizabeth project team if we are requested to do so”.

Professor Jason Leitch, NHS Scotland’s national clinical director for healthcare quality and strategy, said he was “assured that this hospital is safe today”.

He said: “That doesn’t mean there aren’t issues around the building that need reviewed and looked into, both for this building and to learn for Scotland.

“But I can assure the families who are coming in tomorrow for chemotherapy or coming in this week for bone marrow transplants, that this hospital is safe.”

Scottish Conservative MSP Annie Wells, who represents Glasgow, said this was “simply not the kind of scenario that should be unfolding in Scotland in the 21st century, and absolutely not at such an expensive and newly-built facility”.

And Labour’s Monica Lennon said there had been a “laundry list of problem which should have set alarm bells ringing at any hospital, never mind Scotland’s flagship hospital”.

mccoll jonathanWest Dunbartonshire Council leader Jonathan McColl, pictured right, who is a member of the Health Board, was not available for comment to The Democrat.

The SNP councillor was criticised last year by Dumbarton and Lomond Labour MSP Jackie Baillie for his poor record of attendance at Health Board meetings.

One of the questions we would have asked Cllr McColl was what steps were being taken by West Dunbartonshire Council to ensure that pigeons roosting on roofs of houses in Riverside estate in Alexandria and under Bonhill Bridge and local railway bridges were not a health hazard.

On Sunday, former health secretary, the out of favour Alex Neil MSP, called for an inquiry into the deaths as it emerged concerns were raised in December.

Mr Neil told BBC Scotland: “I think there has to be an outside inquiry by experts to find why this happened in the first place, secondly how it has been handled by the health board and, thirdly, what precautions need to be taken for the future.”

People feeding pigeons which roost under Bonhill Bridge and on the roofs of homes in Riverside Estate, Alexandria.

Health Board closes Vale GP service more than any other hospital …

Meanwhile, MSP, Jackie Baillie has released the response to a freedom of information request which has shown that the Vale of Leven Hospital’s Out of Hours Service was subject to 85 closures between November 2017 and November 2018.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde routinely provides a GP Out of Hours Service at 8 locations across the board area – Easterhouse Health Centre; Greenock Health Centre; Inverclyde Royal Hospital; Royal Alexandra Hospital; Queen Elizabeth University Hospital; Stobhill Hospital; Vale of Leven Hospital; Gartnavel General Hospital; and Victoria Hospital.

vale of leven hospital exterior

Vale of Leven Hospital – “Health Board needs to get its act together.”

Each hospital was subject to closures between November 2017 and November 2018, but the FOI shows that the Vale of Leven Hospital’s service experienced far more closures than any other with Queen Elizabeth University Hospital second worst at 55 closures over the one year period.

In addition to the 85 closures between November 2017 and November 2018, the Vale of Leven GP Out of Hours Service was also closed twice over the festive period in 2018 on the 27th December and 3rd January.

The MSP said: “Patients in the catchment area for the Vale of Leven Hospital deserve a much better service from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“It is clear that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board is not doing enough to ensure that health services across the area are properly staffed.

“The health board must do more to ensure that patients can access the services that they need in their local area. I do not accept that my local community should have to travel a great distance to access a base level service that should be delivered locally.

“NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde needs to get their act together and ensure that the Out of Hours service is always available.”

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