Fears of fatal disease brought by birds to Vale hospital come home to roost

By Democrat reporter

Pigeons found in the Vale of Leven Hospital hospital have sparked concerns among residents in light of two deaths related to bird droppings in a Glasgow hospital.

Staff removed the birds which were roosting inside a public area of the Alexandria hospital, over the Easter weekend.

The health board carried out a clean-up and said measures had been taken to prevent further incidents.

When asked about the issue, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said lessons would be learned.

In January, a ten-year-old boy and 73-year-old woman died after contracting the fungal infection Cryptococcus, which was caused by pigeon droppings, at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

A non-public room, thought to contain machinery, was identified as a likely source and an investigation was launched.

Prosecutors are also investigating a third separate death at the Govan hospital after the patient was affected by the fungal infection Mucor.

The pigeons at Vale of Leven are thought to have been found in a waiting room, which was out of use at the time.

The health board said staff cleaned the area using recommended products and equipment.

Bonhill Bridge and Riverside Estate where residents have complained about pigeons. Pictures by Bill Heaney

A spokeswoman for Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board said: “It is a fact that large buildings in urban areas often attract a lot of birds and we take a number of measures to help reduce this.

“Our facilities staff will continue to use pest control measures to reduce the presence of pigeons and we are also consulting with pest control experts to seek other methods of control.

“Learning from this has been shared widely with staff to remind them to close windows and prevent this from happening again.”

During First Minister’s Questions today, Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton and Lomond, told Ms Sturgeon there were still concerns among her constituents.

She said: “Pigeons were found roosting inside the Vale of Leven Hospital following the Easter weekend.

“Given the Cryptococcus, an infection derived from pigeon droppings, contributed to the deaths of two patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, I’m sure the first minister will appreciate the concerns of my local constituents.

“Can I therefore ask her to ensure that there is a review of infection control measures across all Scottish hospitals so that we deal effectively with the problem and improve patient safety?”

pigeon feederMs

Sturgeon replied: “The steps that were taken by the board to manage this were appropriate – staff have been reminded to keep the windows closed to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

The first minister also referred to ongoing reviews around hospital infections arising from the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital deaths saying: “We will make sure all appropriate lessons are fed into that and all appropriate lessons learned.”

There have been criticisms expressed of Network Rail’s inability to rid these birds from under railway bridges throughout West Dunbartonshire.


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