Health Board chair John Brown and CEO Jane Grant; Health Board member and Council leader Jonathan McColl; Health Secretary Jane Freeman and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.

Special report by Bill Heaney

It is high time the scandal of the Queen Elizabeth II University Hospital and Royal Children’s Hospital was called out.

And it was last night on BBC Scotland’s excellent ‘Disclosure’ programme when many viewers must have been in tears, or near enough to them, to see the evidence rolled out in front of their eyes.

We shouldn’t be wasting any more of the £1 billion of public money on this debacle by having a judge-led public inquiry.

We should simply line up the culprits in front of a “firing” squad and dispense with the services of all of them.

And stop the “golden parachutes” and generous redundancy and commutation payments that are paid out by public services to people who have abjectly failed in what they were tasked to do.

We could start with the bullies, who made it well-nigh impossible for eminent, highly qualified medics to flag up serious defects and shortcomings in the construction of this much boasted about “showpiece” hospital.

One consultant who blew the whistle about the life-threatening deficiencies in the hospital’s water supply and ventilation was told to shut up – “This is Glasgow. We don’t write things down up here,” Dr Christine Peters, a senior consultant at the QE2 hospital was told by the “suits”.

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Dr Christine Peters – “horrified”

She told investigative journalist Lisa Summers, of BBC Scotland, that she was “horrified” that the faults, which were putting patients lives in danger, were being covered up.

Who are these creeps? Who do they think they are to lord it over and over-rule decisions made by people far better qualified than they are to identify dangers and raise the alarm in situations such as this?

There can be no question now that a culture of bullying existed when whistle-blowers were told to keep stum when they reported that contaminated water and pigeon droppings almost certainly contributed to the death of one 73-year-old woman, Gail Armstrong, whose family are devastated and would like answers from the Health Board.

We should sack the so-called “experts” who sit in the Health Board and the “suits” who wave through these so-called independent inquiry reports, which decided that the sickness and deaths in the hospital had everything to do with construction and nothing to do with pigeons, contaminated water and patient care.

I have suspected for many years as a reporter covering these matters that Health Boards were seldom to be believed and never to be trusted.

Who remembers when the Lomond Healthcare Trust was scrapped with the chairperson resigning in disgrace; when the Argyll and Clyde Health Board was binned and West Dunbartonshire was incorporated into the Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board.

One of the worst things about that was that the notorious Cllr Jonathan McColl was made a member of the GGCHB.

He is the person who told Jackie Baillie, the local MSP, that the reason he had such poor attendance at health board meetings was because he thought dealing with his office mail was more important.

And this was at a time when arrangements were being put in place to close the Vale of Leven Hospital and downscale the services provided there. Recently he said he was content with that happening.

The Health Board and the Scottish Government have denied they have plans to close the Vale, but if Jonathan McColl is an example of the calibre of their members then they are courting disaster. They are putting lives at risk.

I know for certain that Jonathan McColl is a liar. He is the person who accused me publicly of assaulting two women, one a council employee and another a council committee member. Believe me, our local hospital is in the departure lounge.

Cllr McColl is a stranger to the truth who appears to be being supported in this by the SNP at large and some members of the Labour and Conservative Party, who have not said a word against the fact that The Democrat has been banned by the Council without as much as an inquiry or a vote being taken.

The SNP are currently being kept in power in the administration by the eccentric Clydebank councillor Dennis Agnew who started out his political career as a member of the Labour Party before switching to become an Independent.

And then giving his support to the SNP after some political horse trading involving a gold chain of office and stipend for an office that had been scrapped years ago.

Agnew Dennis
Bailie Agnew

He is no more Independent than fly-in-the-air, but the toothless Labour Group and invisible Tories seem to think that Agnew rather than The Democrat is preferable to have around holding power to account about matters such as their botched £16 million vanity project headquarters in Dumbarton Burgh Hall, which is not fit for purpose.

They have put the emphasis there on keeping the public out  rather than welcoming them in.

What basket case West Dunbartonshire Council needs is not just for special measures to be brought in – this has already happened at the hopeless Health Board, which means the crowd they have at the moment are not fit for purpose.

We need to go further than that. We need to clear these people out altogether and start again.

What’s going on reminded me of this ballad by Ewan McColl, the contents of which are a fair indication of what is happening around here:

Legal, illegal

Every time you pick up a newspaper,

Every time you switch on the T.V.,

You can bet your old boots that at some point you’ll see,

A high ranking policeman or else an MP

Calling on all who are meant to be free,

To stand up and defend law and order.

 It’s illegal to rip off a payroll,

It’s illegal to hold up a train,

But it’s legal to rip off a million or two,

That comes from the labour that other folk do,

To plunder the many on behalf of the few,

Is a thing that is perfectly legal.

It’s illegal to kill off your landlord

Or to trespass upon his estate

But to charge a high rent for a slum is O.K.

To condemn two adults and three children to stay

In a hovel that’s rotten with damp and decay

It’s a thing that is perfectly legal. 

If your job turns you into a zombie

Then it’s legal to feel some despair

But don’t get aggressive and don’t get too smart

For Christ’s sake don’t upset the old apple cart

Remember your boss has your interest at heart

And it grieves him to see you unhappy. 

If you fashion a bomb in your kitchen,

You’re guilty of breaking the law,

But a bloody great nuclear plant is O.K.,

And plutonium processing hastens the day,

This tight little isle will be blasted away,

Nonetheless it is perfectly legal. 

It’s illegal if you are a traveller,

To camp by the side of the road,

But it’s proper and right for the rich and the great,

To live in a mansion or own an estate,

That was got from the people by pillage and rape,

That is what they call a tradition. 

It’s illegal to kill off your missus,

Or put poison in your old man’s tea,

But poison the rivers the seas or the skies,

And poison the minds of a nation with lies,

It’s all in the interest of free enterprise,

Nonetheless it’s perfectly legal.

Well it’s legal to sing on the telly,

But make bloody sure that you don’t,

To sing about racists and fascists and creeps,

And those in high places who live off the weak,

And those who are selling us right up the creek,

The twisters, the takers, the con men, the fakers,

The whole bloody gang of exploiters.

Meanwhile, the Health Board keep trying to get away with this bourach – they are complicit in all those criticisms we have heard about the lack of PPE and ignoring the plight of care homes during the current Covid-19 pandemic – by using spin doctors to dispense press releases full of questionable statistics, lies and verisimilitude.

If this were radio then we would take a break for The Banana Boat Song. Ms Sturgeon and her colleagues seem to think we came up the Clyde in one.

Press releases like the one that follows and came in earlier this month do them no credit : “Today’s independent report from Health Protection Scotland is welcome and demonstrates the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital/Royal Hospital for Children is safe. (you bet it is.”

“The report provides reassurance for the many families and the public who will have had concerns about the safety of the unit. (And it will leave many more asking why they are being lied to.)

“From the Health Protection Scotland review of the data on test results of blood samples over the past six years, their report finds:

“One occasion when the number of infections linked to environmental organisms was greater than expected for this group of patients.  The period in question was June 2018 which was already being investigated by the infection control team and was identified as being potentially linked to the water supply.

“At no other time between 2013 and 2019 did the rate of infections linked to environmental organisms exceed the upper range of expected levels.  This includes 2016 and 2017. (Really?)

The tragic death of 11-year-old Milly Darroch pictured above in hospital and with her mother, Kimberley, who believes contaminated water contributed to her daughter’s death, has been reported to the Procurator Fiscal and may become the subject of a Fatal Accident Inquiry.   Family pictures

“An increase in Gram negative infections (including both environmental and enteric, i.e. intestinal infections) was noted in 2017 however this remained within expected levels for the unit.  During this time there was an investigation into the possibility that two of these cases may have been linked which was later confirmed not to be the case. This investigation was reported to HPS as per mandatory guidance.

“Since the move to Ward 6A and 4B in September 2018, infection rates have been similar to other Scottish paediatric units.

“For a particular group of infections, known as gram positive infections, the rates have fallen and are now lower than elsewhere in Scotland.

“No single source of ‘exposure’ of infections has been identified across the six-year period.

“The purpose of the Health Protection Scotland report was to independently assess rates of infection in the haemato-oncology unit of the RHC over a number of years to help inform NHSGGC investigations into recent infections at the hospital and potential links between these infections and the ward.

“The report considered six years of laboratory data during which period the unit has seen more than a thousand patients with 2,894 admissions.

“The report’s findings are fully in keeping with our own Incident Management Team investigations that concluded the unit is safe. (Well, the consultants who were muzzled do not agree.)

“We have fully tested the water supply and ward surfaces in Ward 6A and also reviewed individual infections and found no links between individual infections and no source of infections in the ward. (What about the pigeons droppings?)

“On the basis of the IMT investigation’s findings and the results from the Health Protection Scotland review, the ward re-opened to new patient admissions on Thursday.

“Jane Grant, Chief Executive, said: ‘We completely understand this has been a distressing time for families and staff and we sympathise with them given the anxiety this has caused. (That’s a small apology for a large amount of anxiety).

‘Unfortunately there will always be a small number of patients who develop infections because of the seriousness of their illness and we are fully committed to supporting them and their families when this occurs.

‘Families should be reassured that Infection rates at present are within expected levels and the hospital is safe. (They’re not).

‘We continue to support families affected at this time and we welcome the opportunity to work with parents and Professor Craig White, who has been appointed by the Cabinet Secretary for Health, to improve our performance in this area.

‘We are all fully committed to ensuring that questions are answered fully and parents reassured.’” (A fair number of mothers think they are lying.”

‘It is important to note that patients in the haemato-oncology unit are susceptible to getting infections because of their illness and also because of their treatment.

‘Certain cancer treatments suppress the immune system and ability to fight off bacteria that can come from within your own system, or from external factors. (such as dirty water and poor ventilation).

‘The key in managing infections is to identify unusual patterns that trigger grounds for investigations and ensure appropriate robust measures are in place.”

Reporter Lisa Summers and some of the doctors and other experts who took part in the BBC Disclosure programme. Pictures by Bill Heaney

The reaction to this kind of spin doctoring from parents and relatives of patients in the BBC Scotland Disclosure programme to reporter Lisa Summers was that they trust implicitly the doctors, nurses and consultants at the QE2 and HRC hospitals.

However, they believe the Health Board and the Scottish Government are being duplicitous, mendacious and involved in the cover-up to outstrip all cover-ups.

It leaves one wondering where Ms Grant and health board chairman John Brown, have been doing while all this was going on. They refused to be on the Disclosure programme and issued instead a pathetic response to portfolio of allegations made against the Board.

Their new attitude [we think you’re great and value your contribution] to whistle-blowers, articulated by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman,  is astonishing.

What happened to the former Health Secretary Shona Robison, whom I contacted on behalf of an alleged whistle-blower who was sacked and promised to come back to me with answers but never did?

Is Nicola Sturgeon going to stand by now and waffle her way out of this crisis with one set of dodgy statistics after another as she has done with Covid-19?

Her ipse dixit throughout this when challenged has been: That was then and this is now. I can’t answer your question. This is unprecedented.

Or will she be spending more time at the Alex Salmond Inquiry in the Holyrood chamber, another SNP scandal, which has just begun at Holyrood and in which she is expected to be involved as a vital witness?

I think the public should be told.

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