Patient seriously ill with new fungal infection at Glasgow superhospital

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By BBC Health news

A patient at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is seriously ill after contracting a fungal infection.

Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said the patient was one of two affected by the infection, related to mucor mould.

It follows the death of a 10-year-old boy who contracted the cryptococcus infection, related to pigeon droppings.

Ms Freeman has ordered a review to investigate how the building’s design, handover and maintenance contributed to effective infection control.

Jeane Freeman told the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland programme: “There are two patients, one of whom has the infection the other who is colonised – meaning the infection is found on their skin but they are not directly infected by it.

“The first patient who is infected is seriously ill.

“What is clear is that it is not related to the water supply inside the hospital, but exactly what has caused it is still being investigated.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has said the likely source is a water leak in a single patient room in the hospital, which has been repaired.

The minister also confirmed child cancer patients had been moved twice within the three-year-old hospital over infection fears.

Last September, extremely ill children moved into the main hospital while a previous unrelated infection was dealt with at the Sick Children’s Hospital.

But they were moved again after the 10-year-old’s death.

What is mucor?

Mucormycosis is a very rare infection. It is caused by exposure to mucor mould which is found in soil, plants, manure, and decaying fruits and vegetables.

It affects the sinuses, the brain and the lungs and can be life-threatening in diabetic or severely immunocompromised individuals, such as cancer patients or people with HIV/AIDS.

Ms Freeman said: “My understanding was he contracted the cryptococcus in the main hospital.

“That is why that area has been closed whilst they investigate what has happened and those children – cancer patients – are now in an additional area of the hospital.

“Part of the ward the children were moved into – they have now been moved out of that – while that is investigated.”

On Friday it emerged that the Crown Office was investigating the fatality.

If the procurator fiscal does decide to take action a Fatal Accident Inquiry or prosecution are among the options.

Ms Freeman admitted her feelings on recent events at the hospital.

She said: “I am not happy. I am not happy for those patients or for their families or indeed for the staff who work there, which is precisely why I have done two things.

“I have asked the Healthcare Environmental Inspectorate (HEI) to inspect and ensure everything the hospital should have been doing to increase patient safety has been done in terms of infection control.

“Also this wider more robust review of the design of the building, its construction and commissioning and its ongoing maintenance and the link between that and effective infection control.”

The fungal infection which contributed to the child’s death is believed to have come from pigeon droppings found in a plant room on the hospital’s roof.

Investigations continue to establish how it entered a closed ventilation system.

Parents of children at the hospital’s cancer unit criticised the Scottish government’s “mixed messages” over the hospital infection situation in a Sunday newspaper.

Ms Freeman said: “I did not say I believed the infection control in the hospital was good enough.

“I said the hospital had undertaken everything I believe they should have in order to provide additional infection control in the light of both the crypto and this second, unrelated fungal infection.”

‘Culture of secrecy’

And answering more claims that some of Scotland’s hospitals had not been inspected for up to 10 years, she said the inspections were not directed by the government.

She said: “HEI are independent of me – they run a rota and they do it on a proportionate basis, working to their own schedule.”

Responding to Ms Freeman’s interview, Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary Miles Briggs said: “Today’s admission that the hospital inspection regime is ‘unacceptable’ is just the beginning.

“The culture of secrecy we have seen develop in the Scottish health service has been encouraged by Nicola Sturgeon and 12 years of top down control of our NHS from SNP ministers – the crisis at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital has only exposed this.

“We need action and full transparency to move the NHS forward and to make sure we put in place the steps to make sure public confidence in hospitals can be rebuilt.”

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