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Two more children have died after contracting infections at Scotland’s crisis-hit “super hospital”, the Scottish Labour leader has said as he urged Nicola Sturgeon to sack health board chiefs and take direct control.
Anas Sarwar told First Minister’s Questions that a clinician had informed him that the death of a child cancer patient at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital had been linked to aspergillus, a fungal infection.
He said that the whistleblower told him the death occurred at “around the same time and the same ward” as that of Andrew Slorance, Ms Sturgeon’s former communications chief, who was also treated for the infection before his death last December.
Mr Sarwar then disclosed that a second clinician had contacted him to inform him that a child in the paediatric hospital had died after contracting a water-borne infection within the past two months.
Police have previously launched a criminal investigation into a number of deaths at the hospital, including that of Milly Main. The leukaemia patient died in 2017, aged 10, after contracting stenotrophomonas, an infection found in water.
Kimberly Darroch, her mother, also accused the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde board of a cover-up after stating she was never given a “clear indication” of the cause. A whistleblower later came forward alleging the hospital’s water supply was responsible.
In both cases, Mr Sarwar alleged that the clinicians did not want their identities made public as they were concerned about bullying and intimidation by the board.
Ms Sturgeon said that a “proper and full investigation” must be made into such serious allegations before further action was taken, and noted that a public inquiry was already under way into the hospital’s construction.
However, the Scottish Labour leader said: “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.
“The health board has failed. The Scottish Government oversight board has failed. And the First Minister continues to fail.
“She must sack the leadership of the health board. Today, sack the oversight board today and use emergency powers to take control of this hospital. Otherwise more families will have to pay the price for Nicola Sturgeon failing to do the right thing.”
Scottish Labour published statements from both anonymous clinicians in which the first said: “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 Nov 2020.
“It begs the question – if there was a case as far back as Nov 4, what did the health board do to investigate it?” They said a “Red report” should have been filed after the child’s death, which occurred shortly before Mr Slorance passed away.
In addition, they said that Jeane Freeman, the SNP health secretary at the time, should have been informed.
The second clinician said: “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.”
The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital scandal deepened the week after Louise Slorance, Andrew Slorance’s widow, accused the hospital of trying to hide the real cause of his death.
Andrew Slorance, a civil servant who was head of the Scottish Government’s response and communication unit, died nearly six weeks into his stay. Ms Sturgeon attended the father-of-five’s wake.
His cause of his death was listed as Covid pneumonia, but Mrs Slorance discovered when she requested his medical notes, he had also been treated for an infection caused by aspergillus.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it had been “open and honest” and there was no attempt to conceal information from the family.
Ms Sturgeon said on Thursday that an “independent external review of Andrew’s case notes” would be conducted.
However, she said: “Sacking a health board does not change overnight the practice in a hospital, that is why the actual work has to be done. When concerns are raised about the cause of someone’s death, then that has to be properly investigated so that the action that is then taken as a result of that is the right action.”
In a statement, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde 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 Queen Elizabeth University Hospital are rigorous and of the highest standard.”