Cancer patient, 11, was unable to shower for weeks at hospital, inquiry told

·3-min read

A mother has criticised the “prison-like” conditions in a children’s hospital ward which had no running water while her young son received treatment for a rare disease.

Lynn Kearns told the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry that her son was unable to shower for about two weeks while in the hospital, despite vomiting on himself during treatment.

Mrs Kearns said she understood the water supply was cut off due to a certain type of bacteria being found in the system.

The inquiry began hearing evidence on Monday into problems at two flagship hospitals that contributed to the deaths of two children.

It is investigating the construction of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.

Mrs Kearns’s son was 11 when he was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening blood disorder in December 2017.

He was treated in the Royal Hospital for Children at the QEUH campus between December 2017 and March 2018.

Mrs Kearns told the inquiry her son was treated in his room in Ward 2A, part of the Schiehallion Unit where there were issues with running water.

Children in the ward had to wash and drink using bottled water.

She described the hospital ward as a “prison” with no working entertainment facilities and “horrendous and unhealthy” food.

Mrs Kearns spoke of a “harrowing” moment on March 10 when staff had to remove a medical tube from her son’s throat which resulted in him vomiting, and there was no hot water to wash him with for days after.

Mrs Kearns said: “He had his endotracheal tube removed, however this was a harrowing event and also left him with vomit on his face.

“The first thing he wanted to do was have a proper wash or shower and freshen up.

“This was impossible due to the lack of hot water and showering facilities being out of bounds.

“The whole experience was so unpleasant for him. Even months after, he was having panic attacks and flashbacks to his time in hospital.”

Mrs Kearns said that after pressing staff for better washing facilities, she was given a basin the size of a dinner plate and some warm water two days after her son had vomited on his face.

She said: “The water had been warmed, but I don’t know if it was from the tap or bottled water.

“My 11-year-old son, just hitting puberty, had to stand in the bathroom on a towel and I had to use a plastic cup to try and wash him.

“It was literally a case of me scooping up the water and pouring it over him. He was at the age where changes were happening and he was becoming more conscious about his body, so standing naked while his mum washed him was humiliating for him.”

Mrs Kearns said she could not fault staff at the unit, as they too were “kept in the dark” about the water supply issues, but was concerned about ward hygiene levels.

She said: “The staff were great and it was clear that the problems were out their control.”

She raised questions over what water was being used to clean the wards.

Despite sharing her concerns at the time with the media, Mrs Kearns said water supply issues at the hospital ward remain a problem today.

After taking her son into the same hospital on Monday, she said she spoke to two maintenance workers who are still changing filters on the sink taps every two months, the inquiry heard.

The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, will continue on Thursday.

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