Glasgow health chief reassures parents over hospital infection fears
The head of Scotland's largest health board has moved to reassure parents as it emerged a child died last week after contracting a hospital infection.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde insists the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow is safe. It said the death was not related to any previous cases.
Chief executive Jane Grant said the hospital was committed to the safety and quality of care for children.
She said infection rates were currently in line with other paediatric units.
The Herald newspaper reported on Sunday that the child, who died on Monday 25 November, had a hospital-acquired infection and had been moved between wards at the site.
NHGGC confirmed that a child had died, saying the issue was being appropriately managed and Health Protection Scotland had been informed.
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The development follows growing concern in recent weeks about the number of infections and the death of a 10-year-old girl at the £842m "super hospital" complex which potentially could be linked to problems with contaminated water supplies.
Responding to the reports Ms Grant said that she was "absolutely committed" to working internally and externally and also with the new oversight board the Scottish government has established to rebuild the confidence of the public.
She said: "We have at all times tried to work with patients and families and we recognise there is much to do there.
"The chairman and I have met with families over recent weeks and they have given us their views on areas where we should improve. We are working on now because we recognise it is absolutely critical parents and their families are supported properly.
"It is difficult for parents in this circumstance and we regret and are sorry for the distress and concern that has been added to a difficult time for families."
Which wards are affected?
September 2018: A spike in infections led to interventions over water contamination and the closure of wards 2A and 2B in the Royal Hospital for Children. NHSGGC said extensive work was carried out on the taps in the wards. Six new cases were reported and an incident management team was appointed. Children were moved to wards 6A and 4B of the adjoining adult hospital, the QEUH.
February 2019: An investigation into the water supply at the QEUH found "widespread contamination". A report by Health Protection Scotland said contamination was found in taps and drains at both hospitals.
4 August 2019: Ward 6A was closed to new admissions at the QEUH after three young patients contracted infections. Work started on its water supply and air quality systems. NHSGGC said there was "nothing to link the infections" to practices or the environment of the QEUH ward.
November 2019: Ward 6A reopens where child cancer patients are now being treated.
It comes a day after parents of children being treated at the QEUH said they had "no confidence" in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
A group of 15 parents met at the constituency office of Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar who has been highlighting concerns at Holyrood over the hospital.
Charmaine Lacock, acting as spokeswoman for the parents, said on Sunday that Ms Grant should be suspended until there was a clearer picture.
She said: "If you don't give parents honest answers, how do you expect them to trust you?
"The parents fear that with her there, with the health board in place, an ongoing investigation will just be another cover-up, another whitewash.
"We need independent people to come in and clean up this mess so the parents can feel confident it is safe for our children to go in there."
On Thursday, a leaked inspection report into Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) revealed "high risks" had been identified in 2015, soon after the hospital opened.
Kimberly Darroch, the mother of 10-year-old Milly Main, who developed a fatal infection while recovering from leukaemia treatment, said her daughter would be still alive had those concerns about water contamination risks been addressed in time.
NHSGGC was placed into special measures by Health Secretary Jeane Freeman on 22 November, just days after an independent review into the hospital was ordered. An oversight board is being chaired by chief nursing officer Prof Fiona McQueen.
Jane Grant said that infection control levels had returned to a normal level.
She said: "Since the move to Ward 6A and 4B in September 2018, infection rates have been similar to other Scottish paediatric units.
"We have fully tested the water supply and ward surfaces in Ward 6A and also reviewed individual infections and found no links between individual infections and no source of infections in the ward.
"Families should be reassured that infection rates at present are within expected levels and the hospital is safe."
She also said that the technical reports on the quality of the water supplies at the QEUH Campus mentioned by Mr Sarwar in the Scottish Parliament were not brought to the hospital's senior leadership team's attention until 2018.
She said: "Issues with the water were first raised with us in 2018 and immediately, a proper infection management process was put in place.
"A number of hypotheses were suggested in the beginning, They were all worked through in the normal routine infection control process. As soon as we were made aware of those things, action was taken."
She added: "I have inherited a set of difficult circumstances, a set of circumstances which have clearly gone back a number of years. The public inquiry will focus on how that occurred and we will work with them. Going forward we are committed to delivering high quality services."
Glasgow MSP Anas Sarwar, who has called for the current health board leadership to be removed, said the chief executive was "ultimately responsible for the rotten culture of fear and intimidation at this hospital".
He said: "It should never have taken brave whistleblowers to come forward for this scandal to emerge. Without them, parents would still be in the dark.
"While senior managers remain in place there is a risk the investigation will be compromised, which is why they should be moved aside - as would surely have happened in a criminal investigation if this was in the private sector.
"With another tragic death at the hospital reported in recent days, parents, patients and the public deserve urgent answers about what has gone so catastrophically wrong at the QEUH."
He also called for the health secretary to give an urgent update at Holyrood on Tuesday.