Glasgow super hospital building to be reviewed after deaths linked to pigeon droppings

Written by Tom Freeman on 22 January 2019 in News

Jeane Freeman announces investigation into Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in the wake of deaths linked to pigeon infection

South Glasgow hospital - CC2.0

Scotland’s health secretary Jeane Freeman has ordered a review of the construction, design and maintenance of Glasgow’s super hospital in the wake of the deaths of two patients who had an infection linked to pigeon droppings at the hospital.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde launched its own investigation into the deaths after both patients at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital contracted a fungal infection caused by a build-up of pigeon droppings in a non-public room on the 12th floor.

Post-mortems concluded an elderly patient’s death was not caused by the infection but it is understood to have been a factor in the death of a child.

The cryptococcus infection, which is carried by air-borne spores, is very unusual in the UK.

Jeane Freeman told MSPs the health board had given her a “detailed briefing” and she was confident it had taken “all steps” to maintain patient safety at the 1,677-bed facility.

However the structure and maintenance of the building will be reviewed with independent advice, and the results made public, she added.

“There are two strands to this. The first is to deal with the current infection, which the board has done thoroughly, they've taken all the measures they should take,” she said.

“The other is the building itself. We need to be absolutely sure about the current state of this infrastructure - what do we need to fix, how has that arisen, and what are the lessons for our build elsewhere in the health service.”

The £840m flagship super hospital in Govan was opened in 2015 as the largest hospital campus in Europe, but has struggled to meet demand after several other Glasgow facilities were closed.

It has also had high maintenance bills, including having to deal with contaminated water supply.

Former health secretary Alex Neil condemned the way NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde communicated details of the incident to the public.

Labour’s shadow health secretary Monica Lennon said there had been “a complete lack of clarity” from the board.

“Jeane Freeman this afternoon confirmed that child sadly died as a result of infections at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and that alone is cause enough for a serious review of maintenance," she said.

“Questions remain, however, why successive health secretaries allowed problems at the hospital to build up before commissioning this review. 

“Problems at the hospital were reported as far back as February 2016, when sewage leaks saw operations cancelled. In December 2017 cladding had to be removed from the hospital due to similarities it shared to the material used on Grenfell tower. 

“In August 2018, a glass panel crashed ten floors from the hospital, and last month we saw reports of bacteria in the water supply at the cancer ward at the children’s hospital on the campus. 

“That is a laundry list of problems which should have set alarm bells ringing at any hospital, never mind Scotland’s flagship hospital. The review is overdue – it now must deliver honest answers about the mistakes that have been made.” 

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