Doctor’s concerns over virus control in elderly Royal Infirmary tightens screw on Nicola Sturgeon and Jeane Freeman

Covid ward in hospital

Senior doctors at a Glasgow hospital have raised concerns about Covid-19 infection control.

By Democrat reporter

Just when we thought matters could not get any worse for the NHS in Scotland along comes a revelation from BBC Scotland that medics at Glasgow Royal Infirmary have drafted a remarkable joint letter to management.

In it, they express “serious concern” about the safe treatment of coronavirus patients, which means they believe the hospital is not fit for purpose.

They are now due to meet hospital chiefs over fears the Victorian building is unsuitable for preventing the spread of the virus.

Add this to the troubles at the “showpiece” Queen Elizabeth II University Hospital, where there is an ongoing judge-led inquiry over unexplained deaths and questions about patient safety, the situation is looking grimmer by the day for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the Cabinet Secretary for Health, Jeane Freeman.

Not to mention Health Board chair John Brown and Chief Executive Jane Grant.

There are questions to be answered too about both the Glasgow and Edinburgh Sick Kids hospitals, where £ millions more will have to be spent to make them safe.

Vale of Leven Hospital, campaigners are forever wondering about its future.

Plans being kept secret by the Health Board to close both the Vale of Leven and Inverclyde district general hospitals and accommodate patients from these hospitals in the QE2 Hospital and the RAH, which is already happening to some extent, can’t be implemented at present.

Which the public, who desperately want to keep their local hospital open, are glad to see happening.

However, their representative on the Health Board, Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration on West Dunbartonshire Council, has expressed no objection to the closure and is said would be content to see the hospital site become yet another housing estate.

The complaints about the Royal Infirmary came as a man whose father died after catching Covid in hospital claims he was placed on a ward with patients who had tested positive for the virus.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) said decisions about where to situate patients were always made in conjunction with clinical teams and infection control experts.

Recovering from stroke

It said its deepest sympathies were with the patient’s family.

Tom, not his real name as he wishes to remain anonymous, says his father had been in Glasgow Royal Infirmary since the end of June, recovering from a stroke.

Although plans were being made to discharge him, he contracted coronavirus in October and died two weeks ago.


His father, who was in his eighties, tested positive after twice being placed in the same bay as patients with the virus, Tom claims.

He told Mhairi Stuart on BBC Radio Scotland’s Lunchtime Live that he was “absolutely flabbergasted” when he discovered in October that the hospital was starting to put patients who had tested positive on the same wards as those who did not have the virus.

This was similar to the scandalous decision to move covid patients from hospitals into care homes which had previously not had a single resident who had contracted the disease.

He says he was told by doctors that guidelines were being followed as long as a patient was two metres away from someone who was Covid-positive.

Responding to the claims, Scotland’s Chief Medical Officer Gregor Smith, pictured left,  told the daily media briefing in Edinburgh on Tuesday that infection prevention and control procedures included streaming patients with suspected Covid or with Covid and separating them from other patients.

There is no ventilation in the wards’

He said: “We call those the Green and the Red pathways within hospitals and they are very clearly demarcated throughout the hospital system to try to make sure we don’t have that type of mixing.”

Tom told BBC Scotland his father was moved to an open ward in Glasgow Royal and a Covid-positive patient was in the next bed to him.

He explained: “It’s an older hospital and from what I can see there is no ventilation in the wards. I’d asked the nurses if they could open the windows. They said most of the windows don’t open. If they are in an open ward with the Covid-positive patients, the virus is in the air and it has got no means of escape, so basically they are sitting in a Covid soup.”

Tom said he raised the issue with a doctor who said they were having to deal with an awful situation.

Tom believes his father’s death could have been avoided. He claims his father, whom he says was making progress, was in a ward in close proximity to Covid-positive patients for three days. He was moved out and three days later he tested positive himself.

The NHSGCC spokeswoman told BBC Scotland that there were currently 667 Covid patients in the health board’s hospitals, which is more than at the height of the pandemic in April.

National guidance

The spokeswoman explained: “As a result of an increase in Covid-19 cases being admitted to hospital, we have a number of Red Wards at the Glasgow Royal Infirmary, meaning that they are closed to new admissions.

“The wards have been classified in this way to help minimise the spread of the virus. Where needed, appropriate measures are in place to ensure that anyone classified as a close contact of a Covid case is identified, contact-traced, screened and informed of the requirement to self-isolate.

“Asymptomatic close contact patients are being cared for separately from confirmed cases, and confirmed cases are treated separately from the wider patient population. Confirmed cases are being cared for in line with their presenting condition.

“The decision on where to situate patients is always made in conjunction with clinical teams and infection control experts who are working in line with national guidance.”

Asked about the case at her daily media briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had not heard the interview with Tom and did not know the wider circumstances.

However, she did not say when either she or Jeane Freeman would come back to parliament and explain the full circumstances and details the state of the Royal Infirmary.

She said: “We have asked hospitals since the start of the pandemic to operate what we have called red and green zones, which is about the separation of Covid and non-Covid patients. Obviously I would want to look into why in that circumstance that has not happened.”

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