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by Andrew Learmonth
25 November 2021
Two more child deaths linked to scandal-hit Glasgow hospital

Two more child deaths linked to scandal-hit Glasgow hospital

Two more children have died after contracting infections in a scandal-hit Glasgow hospital, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar has claimed. 

The MSP said he had been told of the fatalities by two clinicians at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Sarwar said the medics wanted to remain anonymous, over fears of bullying and intimidation by hospital management. 

The revelation comes a week after the health board were accused of a cover-up over the death of one of Nicola Sturgeon’s closest aides. 

Former Scottish Government communications chief Andrew Slorance died in December last year after contracting Covid while in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital for cancer treatment. 

The hospital did not tell his family that he had also caught an infection caused by aspergillus, a type of mould, while in their care. 

In today’s question time, Sarwar raised the case of a child cancer patient who was in the same ward as Slorance at roughly the same time. 

That child also died after contracting the same infection.

Sarwar said clinicians had also told him of a case in the last two months of a child acquiring a waterborne infection and dying.

Following First Minister’s Questions, Labour shared quotes from two whistleblowers at the hospital.

One, described by the party as Senior clinician A said:  “I think there are serious questions for the health board and the Scottish Government. Are they doing enough to keep people safe?

“There was another case of aspergillus around the same time as Andrew Slorance and in the same ward.

“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 the 4th of November, 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 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 other, Senior clinician B, said: “There is a culture of bullying and intimidation.

“Despite the reassurances from the health board and the Scottish Government, there continue to be cases of infection linked to water and the environment including Stenotrophomonas.

“There is a culture of denial and the absence of proper investigations into these cases.

“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.”

It’s the latest scandal to hit the hospital. Earlier this year police launched a criminal investigation to look into the deaths of a number of patients, including 10-year-old Milly Main.

She was diagnosed with leukaemia in 2012, and died in 2017 after contracting stenotrophomonas at the hospital - an infection found in water.

A separate public inquiry which is probing the building of several Scottish hospitals is also being held.

Raising the cases in parliament, Sarwar called it a failure of leadership.

“The holding answers are no longer good enough,” he said. “This is gross negligence. The First Minister needs to act to stop infections and save lives.”

Sturgeon said it was important that concerns are properly investigated. 

“I know the independent statutory public inquiry is important but it is simply not the case to say that nothing else is being done. While we await the findings, Glasgow health board is right now at the highest level of escalation in terms of the health board performance framework, at stage four which is often referred to as special measures. 

“That means there is a significant amount of work underway it to address infection in hospitals and to reduce the incidence of infection.”

Sarwar said that answer was “simply unacceptable and complacent”.

He added: “Milly Main died in 2017. There was a similar infection in a child two months ago that lost their lives. Hiding behind process isn't going to bring people back to life or stop infections right now. So can I remind the First Minister that she's been in charge of the scandal from start to finish. 

“This has happened and continues to happen on your watch. Right now. The health board are attempting to deflect blame onto the clinical staff. This is a failure of leadership. The health board has failed. The Scottish Government Oversight Board has failed. And frankly the First Minister continues to fail.

“Staff are being bullied and intimidated now. I've 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. Last week, the cause of Andrew Slorance’s death was revealed. This week the death of two children. Another week of dithering and inaction simply won't cut it. 

“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.”

Sturgeon replied: “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. 

“And it is not right to say that no action has been taken over four years, Anas Sarwar says to me use your emergency powers to take control of the hospital. Greater Glasgow and Clyde, as I said, is at the highest level of escalation and will remain there while all of these issues are investigated and action is taken.

"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. And that's the duty of government and that is the duty we will continue to take seriously.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board has been approached for comment.

Read the most recent article written by Andrew Learmonth - SNP minister's 'disappointment and loss' over Derek Mackay texting scandal

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