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'Culture of denial': Doctors claim two more children died after contracting bugs at superhospital

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A CHILD cancer patient who was being treated at Glasgow's superhospital died after contracting the same bug linked to the death of a senior Scottish Government official, it has been claimed.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar called on Nicola Sturgeon to take the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital under direct ministerial control after clinicians revealed a further two deaths linked to hospital-acquired infections.

One of the medics - whose statements have been released anonymously by Scottish Labour - claim that a child cancer patient died from aspergillus infection in November 2020, around the same time and in the same ward as Andrew Slorance, who had headed up the Scottish Government's communications unit.

A second clinician also claims there has been "at least one death" in the past few months in the adjacent Royal Hospital for Children where a child was infected by a bacteria linked to water and the environment, and describes a "culture of denial" into hospital infections.

Andrew Slorance

READ MORE: Widow claims 'cover up' of Scottish Government official's death

They say "there continue to be cases of infection linked to water and the environment including Stenotrophomonas", a rare bacteria which caused the death of 10-year-old leukaemia patient Milly Main in August 2017 after the Hickman line administering her drugs intravenously became infected, leading to toxic shock.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it is "fully committed to being completely open and transparent" and that infection control in the QEUH is "rigorous and of the highest standard".

It comes amid an ongoing public inquiry into infections linked to the building and water supply at the QEUH.

Mr Sarwar said the doctors had contacted him directly to raise concerns after the widow of Mr Slorance spoke out alleging a cover up surrounding her husband's death following the discovery from his medical notes that he had been treated for an infection caused by aspergillus.

Louise Slorance said this had never been discussed with herself or her husband.

READ MORE: Milly Main's death reported to prosecutors 

Mr Slorance, a father-of-five from Edinburgh, was admitted to the flagship hospital at the end of October 2020 for a stem cell transplant and chemotherapy as part of treatment for Mantle Cell Lymphoma (MCL).

However, the 49-year-old died weeks later after contracting Covid. His cause of death was listed as Covid pneumonia.

Aspergillus is a type of mould commonly found in the environment, but which can cause fatal respiratory illnesses in patients with severely weakened immune systems.

Mrs Slorance has accused NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde of "hiding the fungal infection" to "protect a building, a health board and political decision-making".

The health board insists that it has been "open and honest" at all times with the Slorance family about the treatment provided.

Milly Main, who died in 2017

Speaking after today's FMQs, Mr Sarwar said: "Last week I raised the case of Andrew Slorance who died in the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow after contracting a fungal infection, aspergillus, linked to water and the environment.

"Since then I have been contacted by senior clinicians who have spoken out about two more deaths.

"Another case of aspergillus in a child cancer patient around the same time, in the same ward as Andrew.

"And in the last two months, a child in the paediatric hospital acquired a waterborne infection - like Milly Main - and died.

"Nicola Sturgeon's holding answers are no longer good enough, she has been in charge of this scandal from start to finish.

"This is gross negligence."

Mr Sarwar called on the First Minister to fire the health board's leadership, sack the oversight board and escalate it to Stage 5 - meaning that the Government would be directly responsible for running the service.

Scottish Labour said it was disclosing the doctors' statements anonymously due to their "fear of retribution".

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."

READ MORE: Parents of children given prophylactic antibiotics at QEUH 'falsely told it was for cancer treatment'

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."

Ms Sturgeon - who attended Mr Slorance's wake last year - said she would look into the claims "as a matter of urgency", adding that "no clinician should fear bullying or intimidation in coming forward".

She said: "When concerns are raised, it is important there is proper and full investigation to determine whether there are relationships between infections.

"A considerable amount of work is under way in the NHS to reduce the incidence of this, and of people becoming seriously ill and dying.

"We have to establish the facts, because that informs the actions that require to be taken, and that is vital."

In a statement, NHS GGC said: "It's a painful tragedy for any family to lose their child and we would like to share our deepest condolences with both families.

"We welcome open discussions with anyone who may have questions around care provided and would like to take this opportunity to appeal to the families to speak with us directly, when they feel able to do so.

"Infection control procedures at the QEUH are rigorous and of the highest standard.

"The Hospitals Public Inquiry is currently underway, and we have been providing every support to the inquiry team and will continue to do so. We are also providing support to both patients and staff throughout the process.

"We would like to reassure the public that the clinical care we provide to our patients within the QEUH and RHC  is of a high standard and we afford patient safety the highest possible priority.

"All NHSGGC staff are fully committed to being completely open and transparent in all that we do and for this to be repeatedly called into question does not represent a true reflection of our organisation.

"We support all our staff to speak up if they have concerns. All NHSGGC staff are protected to do so through our Whistleblowing Policy. The policy allows individuals to raise concerns confidentially and for them to be investigated.

"We want to thank all our teams for their continuing commitment to our patients, their families, and their colleagues during this unprecedented time."

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