Girl’s chemotherapy was stopped due to hospital infection, inquiry hears

·4-min read

A mother has told an inquiry that her daughter’s life-saving cancer treatment had to be terminated early after she contracted a hospital-acquired infection, which she is still fighting three years on.

Annemarie Kirkpatrick’s daughter was being treated for leukaemia at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) when she started developing painful lumps and lesions on her body in 2019.

The young patient had been first diagnosed with cancer in 2014 when she was nine years old.

The Scottish Hospital Inquiry heard test results showed Ms Kirkpatrick’s daughter had developed mycobacterium chelonae – a rare infection – that likely came from a water supply in one of the hospital’s operating theatres.

Her life-saving chemotherapy had to be finished early due to needing an immediate course of treatment for the hospital-acquired infection, an inquiry heard.

Scottish Hospitals Inquiry
Lord Brodie is chairing the inquiry into problems at hospitals in Edinburgh and Glasgow (Jane Barlow/PA)

QEUH and Royal Children’s Hospital in Glasgow are currently at the centre of an investigation over issues at the flagship Glasgow hospitals which have been linked to the deaths of two children.

It was ordered after patients at the Glasgow hospital died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and the water supply.

A hearing on Monday heard Ms Kirkpatrick’s daughter caught the infection when she had her line – a catheter used to give chemotherapy treatment – removed during surgery in February 2019.

Three years on, Ms Kirkpatrick said her daughter is still suffering with the infection, which she claims doctors said could take up to five years to fight off.

Speaking at the inquiry in person, Ms Kirkpatrick spoke about an independent case note review that looked into how her daughter contracted the infection.

She said: “The panel found that it was very highly probable that the mycobacterium infection came from the water supply in the operating theatre in the RHC.

“It concluded that the infection has had a severe impact on my daughter’s life, and it is continuing to have a severe impact on her life.”

Ms Kirkpatrick told the inquiry she was aware about water issues in Ward 2A of the RCH, but was told “umpteen times” that other areas of the hospital were safe.

She said: “When you’re faced with something (the infection) that’s very rare and told that the doctors don’t actually know if they can fight the infection and it’s caused by a hospital that should be safe and there to protect some of the sickest children in Scotland is horrendous.

“To find out the hospital has inflicted more pain and could have taken our child’s life is devastating.”

Ms Kirkpatrick also pointed to issues with Ward 6 in the adult hospital where her daughter was moved to after rooms at the children’s hospital were closed due to water contamination issues.

She said part of the roof at the adult hospital “blew off” and windows “fell out” of their frames.

Ms Kirkpatrick said she also saw sewage bursting through tiles in one of the hospital’s corridors.

Alastair Duncan QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked Ms Kirkpatrick how she felt about her daughter contracting an infection which prevented her from receiving her chemotherapy to fight off cancer to which she replied: “I actually can’t put into words how I feel about that.

“I am devastated and angry.”

Health investigation at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital
The water supply at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow is believed to have been contaminated (Jane Barlow/PA)

In a closing statement, Ms Kirkpatrick said: “I don’t feel safe in the hospital, and I know for a fact that my daughter certainly doesn’t feel safe.

“It is not just the infections, I don’t even feel the actual building is safe. I don’t feel that the structure of the building is safe.

“I don’t feel that the Health Board has got the kids’ best interests, or their care is at the centre of it.”

Earlier this year, an independent review found the deaths of two children at the QEUH campus were at least in part the result of infections linked to the hospital environment.

The review investigated 118 episodes of serious bacterial infection in 84 children and young people who received treatment for blood disease, cancer or related conditions at the Royal Hospital for Children at the campus.

It found a third of these infections were “most likely” to have been linked to the hospital environment.

Two of 22 deaths were “at least in part” the result of their infection, it said.

The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, continues.

Health boards are due to give their evidence at a later stage.

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