Photographs showing mould at Scotland’s flagship hospital have prompted calls for bosses to be sacked.
Labour leader Anas Sarwar is calling on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to “finally do the right thing and sack the leadership at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital ”.
The Scottish Labour leader said a vote to be held in the Scottish Parliament today was a line in the sand – and MSPs had to decide if they were on the side of patients and staff “or a culture of cover-ups and secrecy by managers”.
It came as Labour showed photographs revealing recent examples of mould growth inside the hospital.
The photographs come from an academic paper published earlier this year exposing the risks of water in seeding infection inside hospitals.
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It is the latest in a long line of controversies to dog the hospital which has seen the deaths of several patients because of hospital infections over the last five years.
One of the pictures shows mould in a critical care unit caused by leakage of water on to the floor from a dialysis point.
The report, Water Springing to Life the Fungal Desert, told how staff had reported the leakage and when the dialysis point panel was removed it revealed evidence of water ingress and visible black mould tracking along a wall between patient and bed spaces.
The authors said the leak had been caused by a failure to tighten a connection at the dialysis point and was suspected to be a slow leak dating back to the time of construction.
Three critical care beds were closed in order to remove the water-damaged material and a review of other dialysis points revealed 12 others in the hospital exhibiting the same problem.
The other photo showed mould found in a haematology ward under-going refurbishment where black mould was evident behind sink panels which may have tracked from shower areas or been as a result of water splashing from sinks on to surrounding plaster-board.
Sarwar said repeated pleas from the loved ones of those who have died from preventable hospital acquired infection have been ignored.
And he claimed warnings from staff about patient safety were also covered up by the health board.
Currently an inquiry into the QEUH campus and the new children’s hospital in Edinburgh is underway and has been hearing from families whose children died or became infected in the Glasgow hospital.
Among them was Kimberley Darroch whose daughter Milly Main died at the hospital.
Little Milly, who had leukaemia, was recovering well after a stem cell transplant in 2017.
However, the catheter used to administer drugs became infected. Milly went into toxic shock and died days later.
Her death certificate lists a stenotrophomonas infection of the Hickman line among the possible causes of death but Kimberly said the family were kept in the dark about a potential link to contaminated water problems at the hospital.
It was two years later after reading a story in the Daily Record Kimberly realised what had happened to her little girl.
She told the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry she wants the children and adult hospitals at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow to close.
In a statement she said: “I feel like the health board need to be punished for all of this. In my eyes, what happened to my daughter is murder.
“She should still be here and I am trying to come to terms with that, after coming to terms with losing her initially.”
Following her statement the Crown Office launched a criminal investigation into Milly’s death and that of a 73-year-old woman who also died in the hospital.
Since the hospital opened, staff have been telling the Daily Record of problems at the hospital – including water contamination – which they believed put patients at risk.
Today’s Labour motion comes after a series of families and clinicians came forward to speak out about a series of deaths at the flagship hospital spanning the last five years.
Father-of-five Andrew Slorrance, a civil servant who worked with the First Minister on the pandemic, suffered from cancer and was admitted to the QEUH in October 2020. He died at the QUEH in December 2020 after contracting a fungal infection, aspergillus.
And last week Sarwar revealed two further child patients had died – one from another case of aspergillus in a child cancer patient around the same time and in the same ward as Andrew.
The other child died within the last two months in the paediatric hospital with an acquired a waterborne infection – like Milly Main .
Labour have called for Sturgeon to sack the leadership of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and take the board under direct ministerial control.
Last week Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said he still had full confidence in the board.
Today Sarwar will lead a debate saying the parliament had no confidence in the leadership of NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and that the Scottish Government must escalate the NHS board to Stage 5 of the performance escalation framework.
Speaking ahead of the debate, Sarwar said: “We have had four years of inaction and hiding behind process since the death of Milly Main.
“It has been two years since the culture of cover-up and secrecy at NHSGCC was brought to light.
“People are still dying from preventable hospital acquired infections.
“A culture of bullying and intimidation at the board continues to leave staff fearful of speaking out. I have every confidence in the frontline staff, I have no confidence in the leadership of the board.
“The leadership at the health board and the oversight board put in place by the SNP Government have failed.
“Given the ongoing risks of Covid, winter pressures and the continuing issues of infection control due to the water and hospital environment, it is abundantly clear that we need a management that has the trust of the public.
“We need a leadership that is focused on delivering patient safety, not on spinning, bullying and cover-ups to save their jobs.
“That is why families are demanding this hospital is taken under direct ministerial control so we can get a grip of this crisis. The refusal of the First Minister to act is a dereliction of duty.
“Today’s vote is a line in the sand. Enough is enough. MSPs have a choice, they can side with families, clinicians and those campaigning for patient safety or they back a culture of secrecy, cover-up and incompetence which has had fatal consequences.”
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have already set out that where a water leak is identified in a hospital they will investigate for mould growth around affected areas.
“Where there is any evidence of mould, steps are taken to remove it with full infection prevention and control oversight.
“The academic paper – which was published nine months ago – itself makes clear that no patient harm was caused in the scenarios described, and that mould growth occurs in hospitals across the UK on a regular basis.
“Both we and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are clear that where possible preventative action should be taken to minimise the risk of mould growth, and where it is identified that it is addressed swiftly.
“The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital has been subject to a number of independent reviews and the board are well advanced in having implemented, or are implementing, the recommendations from those reviews. There is also an independent judge-led public inquiry which is investigating matters in the hospital in recent years.
“NHS staff in the QEUH and across Scotland continue to provide exceptional care to their patients and are currently doing so in the face of unprecedented pressures brought by the pandemic.
“We note that a number of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde clinicians have raised concerns about how the hospital is being portrayed and we welcome their commitment to delivering the best quality care to patients and their focus on what matters most to patients and their families.”
NHSGGC did not respond to our request for comment.