HEALTH MATTERS: clinicians had raised concerns about water and ventilation but were ignored

Doctors’ infection concerns ‘not addressed’ at showpiece QE2 University hospital

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital
 The health board has apologised to families for ‘distress caused’.

By Democrat reporter

Doctors felt their concerns about ventilation and water at Scotland’s largest hospital were not addressed, a new report has found.

It was one of a number of failings found by the oversight board for the Queen Elizabeth University in Glasgow, after deaths were linked to infections.

The interim report also highlighted issues with infection prevention and control, and communication.

The health board has apologised for “distress caused to families affected”.

The oversight board was set up to address infection prevention and control at the £842m facility, which opened in 2015.

A separate independent review of the hospital, which takes patients from West Dunbartonshire and Argyll, was ordered by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman, pictured left,  following the deaths of three patients between December 2018 and February 2019.

A 10-year-old boy and 73-year-old woman who died at the Govan hospital were found to have contracted Cryptococcus fungal infection which can be linked to pigeon droppings.

A third death, involving a 63-year-old patient who contracted the fungal infection Mucor, was also investigated but no link was found.

Millie Main, 10, died in 2017 from an infection, which her mother believes was “100%” due to contaminated water.

Clinicians’ concerns

The oversight board recognised “significant shortcomings” in the construction and handover of the QEUH, as well as how NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) responded to emerging and related problems.

In a report published on Monday, the board said that clinicians had raised concerns about water and ventilation but did not feel they were being addressed.

It also said there were shortcomings over how “‘warning signals’ about potential problems were – or were not – acted upon over the years”.

A 10-year-old boy and 73-year-old woman who died at the hospital were found to have contracted Cryptococcus fungal infection which can be linked to pigeon droppings.

On the issue of infection prevention and control in the health board, the report said that national standards had been “translated through a profusion of local guidance” – meaning there was a risk of promoting a Glasgow “way of doing things”.

‘Kept in the dark’

The health board was placed in level four special measures by the Scottish government last year amid the ongoing concerns.

Wards 2A and 2B at RHC were closed in September 2018 after contamination was found in water outlets and drains in 2A, and children were moved to wards in the main QEUH building.

The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital cost £842m  and opened in 2015.

The report said that while families had praised medical and nursing staff for their support, several felt the health board had been “too slow, if not reluctant, to provide them with answers to their questions”.

Parents heard news through the media and hospital press releases, which added to their impression of being “kept in the dark”, the report said.

It concluded there had been “long-term uncertainty” in how to explain the infection problems, “especially over the source”.

‘Great deal of work’

The report made 17 recommendations including that the health board should pursue “more active and open transparency”.

Jane Grant, NHSGGC chief executive, pictured right, said the health board was committed to applying lessons learned from the findings.

She added: “The report covers what has been a very difficult period for our patients, their families and our staff and I would once again say how sorry we are for the distress caused to families affected.”

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said a number of initiatives are already being taken forward, including the establishment of the National Centre for Reducing Risk in the Healthcare Built Environment.

She said: “The interim report from the oversight board includes clear recommendations for how QEUH can strengthen infection prevention and control and it includes important learning that can be applied to the future design and build of healthcare facilities.”

Labour MSP Anas Sarwar, who was in contact with whistleblowers over the hospital’s standards, said: “It’s clear there were catastrophic failings from the hospital management.

“Families deserve closure, which is why we must ensure they receive all the answers they seek – and there is still a great deal of work to do to deliver justice.”

Scottish Conservative’s shadow health secretary, Donald Cameron MSP, added: “Any failures in infection control procedures are unacceptable, the health board must ensure that this is an area which the highest standards are implemented throughout.”

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