Crown to probe hospital deaths following infection linked to pigeon droppings

Prosecutors are now investigating the deaths of two patients at Scotland’s flagship hospital who contracted an infection connected to pigeon droppings.

The Crown Office confirmed it is looking into the death of a 73-year-old woman at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow earlier this month.

The development comes days after prosecutors revealed they were investigating the death in December of a 10-year-old boy who had also contracted the Cryptococcus infection.

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has previously confirmed the Cryptococcus infection was a contributory factor in the boy’s death.

The second death at the £842 million hospital, which opened in 2015, was initially said not to be connected to the infection.

However, the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service confirmed on Tuesday it is now probing both deaths.

A Crown Office spokesman said: “The Procurator Fiscal has received reports in connection with the deaths of a 10-year-old boy and a 73-year-old woman at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in December 2018 and January 2019 respectively.

“The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation into the deaths, under the direction of the Crown’s health and safety division, is ongoing and the family will be kept updated in relation to any significant developments.”

The infection is believed to be from pigeon droppings found in a plant room on the hospital’s roof.

Investigations are continuing to establish how the bacteria entered a closed ventilation system.

Ms Freeman recently ordered a review of the design, build, handover and maintenance at the hospital and how they contribute to “effective infection control”.

Meanwhile, Holyrood’s Health Committee has also been urged also to investigate claims that infections are spreading as though in “Victorian times” at the hospital.

Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs wants MSPs on the committee to look into the issue after Ms Freeman confirmed on Sunday that another patient at the hospital was seriously ill after contracting a separate fungal infection called Mucor.

Mr Briggs (pictured) said it was “imperative” that MSPs on the Health Committee “investigate this scandal as a matter of urgency”.

He added: “It’s bad enough that two people have lost their lives in such unacceptable circumstances.

“But in the weeks since, the SNP government has been complacent and badly lacked transparency.

“The families involved will have questions that deserved to be answered, but so too will the patients, visitors and staff who use the hospital on a daily basis.”

Mr Briggs added: “The new Queen Elizabeth was supposed to be a flagship hospital offering the very best care in a safe, clean environment.

“Instead, infections have been allowed to spread in a way you would associate with the Victorian times.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “As the Health Secretary set out to Parliament last week, an independent expert review will look at the hospital’s design, commissioning, construction, handover and maintenance, including how these matters support effective infection prevention and any other areas considered necessary by those carrying out the review.

“The Health Secretary has also asked the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate to fully inspect and review this incident and to make any further recommendations they consider appropriate.

“Any committee activity is, of course, a matter for the Scottish Parliament’s Health and Sport Committee to determine.

“The Scottish Government and the NHS will always engage positively with the Health Committee on any matters they consider.”

Copyright (c) Press Association Ltd. 2019, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jane Barlow / PA Wire.