Queen Elizabeth University Hospital has been at the centre of controversy over patient deaths from unexplained infections

By Bill Heaney

Two more child patients have died after contracting infections in a dirty hospital, according to Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who has urged the Scottish Government to step in and sack the health board and its bosses.

The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) has been at the centre of interminable controversy, with a number of people – including children in the contiguous Royal Children’s Hospital,  after contracting infections linked to the water and atmosphere and even pigeon droppings.

All this has led to the promise that a public inquiry will be established to investigate the deaths and conditions at the hospital complex, which cost £85 million to build.

Last week, the widow of Scottish Government employee Andrew Slorance, who was being treated in the hospital last year, linked his death to aspergillus, an infection linked to a type of mould.

According to Mr Sarwar, a clinician has come forward, telling him that another such infection was found at around the same time period as Mr Slorance’s in a child cancer patient who later died.

A separate medic, the Labour leader claimed, has also told him of another infection just two months ago in the paediatric hospital where the patient later died – four years on from the death of ten-year-old Milly Main, pictured right with her mother, who died after contracting a waterborne infection.

In a statement to the media by the Labour leader, the clinician, who warned of the infection at around the same time as Mr Slorance, said: “A child cancer patient died after contracting the infection in November 2020.

“It begs the question – if there was a case as far back as November 4 what did the health board do to investigate it? Did they look for an environmental source and could future infections have been prevented?

“In cases like this, where two patients have died of aspergillus in short order, a HIIAT (Healthcare Infection Incident Assessment Tool) Red report should have been filed and therefore the health secretary informed.

“Why was this then not acted on? We could have lost the chance to prevent subsequent infections and deaths.”

The Labour leader refused to confirm the identity of the clinicians, whom he claims fear they would be victimised, bullied and harassed by management.

The second staff member said there was a “culture of bullying and intimidation”, adding: “The result is inaction with potentially fatal consequences.

“Within the last few months there has been at least one death in the paediatric hospital where a child was infected by a bacteria linked to water and the environment.

“We can’t hide behind a public inquiry. We need urgent action now so we can make it safe and provide the necessary reassurances about the risk from environment and water supply.”

Mr Sarwar urged the First Minister to use emergency powers to allow ministers to take control of the hospital and fire the heads of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“The health board has failed, the Scottish Government oversight board has failed and frankly the First Minister continues to fail,” he said at First Minister’s Questions in Edinburgh.

“Staff are being bullied and intimidated now. I have been raising this in this chamber for years and I’ve heard the same answers and the same excuses.

“Infections are happening now, patients are dying now.”

He added: “Sack the leadership of the health board today, sack the oversight board today and use your emergency powers to take control of this hospital.

“First Minister, how many more families will have to be devastated before you do the right thing?”

Chairman of the Health Board is John Brown, pictured right, and chief executive is Jane Grant. West Dunbartonshire’s representative if Cllr Jonathan McColl, leader of the SNP administration, who has been criticised in the past by the Labour MSP Jackie Baillie for not attending meetings and putting his constituency correspondence before his health board duties for which he paid in addition to his council leader’s salary and allowances.

In response, Nicola Sturgeon, below left,  said: “Sacking a health board does not change overnight the practice in a hospital, that is why the actual work has to be done.

“When concerns are raised about the cause of someone’s death, then that has to be properly investigated so that the action that is then taken as a result of that is the right action.”

She added: “These are serious matters – they are serious matters all of us should take seriously but we do not do justice to the families concerned if we simply call for action that is not based on proper investigation, proper scrutiny and proper consideration.

“That is the duty of government and that is the duty we will continue to take seriously.”

One comment

  1. Cheap shot political game playing by Mr Sarwar and his Labour party I’m afraid.

    The issue of infection rates in hospitals are are serious business and a lot of work by dedicated highly trained professionals, as well as basic infection control by cleaners is very much a part of an extensive operation mounted day after day, week after week.

    The cat call that the whole board should resign on mass should therefore be seen for the street theatre that it is. Why doesn’t motormouth Sarwar just issue another fatwa that all of the doctors and nurses should resign.

    The loss of anyone in circumstances where maybe a loved one should not have died needs to be investigated. Howling that everyone is to be sacked is not the way forward to find out what, if anything happened, and what if anything needs to be done, and a proper investigation is what is needed.

    And when it comes to howling Mr Sarwar, do you remember the horrendous tragedy of death at the Vale of Leven where cleaning and hygiene services were privatised by your very own Labour party.

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