By Lucy Ashton
A mother has told an inquiry her son’s life-threatening infection came from the hospital drains.
Colette Gough was told the news by doctors after a line infection left her 10-year-old son seriously ill after cancer surgery at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.
The facility is under investigation in the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry.
Building issues at the flagship Glasgow hospital, which treats patients from Dunbarton and Argyll, have been linked to the deaths of two children.
The inquiry covers the construction of the QEUH campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.
It was ordered after patients at the Glasgow hospital died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and the water supply, and the opening of the Edinburgh site was delayed due to concerns over the ventilation system.
A man feeding pigeons near the hospital on Glasgow’s south side.
Mrs Gough’s 10-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer after he became unwell in July 2018 when he was seven, and was found to have a kidney tumour.
He was being treated in the Schiehallion children’s cancer unit in the children’s hospital on the QEUH campus, and underwent surgery to remove the affected kidney in early September 2018.
The hearing heard his condition deteriorated after surgery due to a line infection and medical staff battled to stabilise him. The same thing happened the following day, leaving his parents “terrified that this was him going down again”.
‘One of six children who had fallen ill’
Mrs Gough said that in mid-September she and her husband were invited to a meeting with two doctors who explained where the infection had come from.
She said: “They apologised and told us that the infection he had had come from the drains and that he was not an isolated case, that he was one of six children who had fallen ill about the same time and that there seems to be an issue with the building and the drains and the water, and because of that the plan was to close the ward and transfer the whole unit to somewhere else in the hospital, at that point they didn’t know where or when that would happen, that they were working with estates to try and rectify the problem.”
Alastair Duncan QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked how this made her feel, to which she replied: “Quite angry, that’s the reason we’re here today because my husband and I really felt let down. We really put our trust and our faith in the hospital.”
The Royal Hospital for Sick Children – patients were moved out of danger.
Earlier she said there were signs on the sinks in the Schiehallion unit asking people not to drink the water or pour anything down the drain, and that during the first month of their time at the hospital tap filters appeared.
However she said that staff “played down” concerns about the water and said it was just to keep everybody safe.
‘Window fell out’
The inquiry heard that around that time work was being done on the building cladding, and a window fell out of the adult hospital.
Mr Duncan asked: “Thinking about where things stood, the issues you experienced on ward 2A, the shower water, issues you experienced on ward 3B, two life endangering events, the now closure of wards 2A, 2B, the move to the adult hospital, an issue with cladding, an issue with windows, possible risk from the work being done, at this point in time how did you feel about the hospital?”
Mrs Gough said: “Anxious about every single admission and the anxiety levels just kept rising, and the fact that I was still on the bounce back from witnessing my son’s near death experiences and I was just running on pure adrenaline at that point.”
Earlier this year, an independent review found the deaths of two children at the QEUH campus were at least in part the result of infections linked to the hospital environment.
The review investigated 118 episodes of serious bacterial infection in 84 children and young people who received treatment for blood disease, cancer or related conditions at the Royal Hospital for Children at the campus.
It found a third of these infections were “most likely” to have been linked to the hospital environment.
Two of 22 deaths were “at least in part” the result of their infection, it said.
The three-week inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, continues.