Young cancer patient put in ‘cell-like’ isolation after mother raised cleanliness concerns, inquiry told
A young boy with cancer was kept in cell-like isolation in a “filthy” Glasgow hospital after his mother started asking questions about cleanliness and infections in the water, an inquiry has heard.
Sharon Ferguson told the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry that she was repeatedly lied to by staff and told she was being “paranoid” when she raised concerns about her son’s treatment at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH).
Her son was eight when he was admitted in 2017 with cancer to the Royal Hospital for Children at the campus.
Ms Ferguson said she believes her son caught infections from the environment and that drugs given to him to combat or prevent them contributed to his profound hearing loss.
She said when she “started asking questions around mid-January 2019” about conditions in the hospital, her son was put more often in “source” – a form of isolation where a patient with an infection is separated from other patients.
“We were confined to the room in isolation and you can’t open doors or windows and no fan is allowed,” she said.
She said as her son was having chemotherapy he would go to the toilet in a pot and urinate in a bottle and when he was in source it would “stay in your bathroom until the nurses came to collect them and I often had to chase them to do this”.
Ms Ferguson said the hospital wards were “disgusting”, with the smell of sewage and windows falling out and cracking.
She said you “wouldn’t let a pet pig” stay in them.
She said faeces and vomit was left uncleaned on her son’s bedrail for weeks and she described one incident where “black stuff” fell on his bed and “all over his covers”, prompting them to be immediately moved to another room
In a statement to the inquiry read by his mother, the boy said when he washed his hands and showered “you felt like something was crawling on your skin and would scratch and scratch”.
He said: “Management is a joke, they couldn’t care less about any patient in the hospital.
“They think it’s fine to lie and hide behind their office doors and leave the nurses and doctors to take the anger from patients and parents.
“You try not having a hot wash for weeks and having to stay locked in your cell, miserable
“We were deprived of a basic human right of clean air, clean water and fresh food – we got none of that.
“I was isolated and lonely, they kept us in source most of the time to stop my mum asking questions.”
Ms Ferguson said she believes some of the drugs her son was given were to prevent infections being caught from the hospital environment.
She said: “When he was first given the posaconazole in 2017 I was told by the doctors and nurses that it was to protect their lungs from the environment.”
While her son began losing his hearing due to another drug as part of his cancer treatment, she added: “I think the posaconazole took the rest of his hearing, but no doctors have actually confirmed that.”
Ms Ferguson has now been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
She added: “I lost my marriage as a result of everything that went on. There was no support for us.”
The inquiry is investigating the QEUH and Royal Children’s Hospital in Glasgow after issues at the new flagship site were linked to the deaths of two children.
It was ordered after patients died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and the water supply.
The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, continues.
Health boards are due to give their evidence at a later stage.
Copyright (c) PA Media Ltd. 2021, All Rights Reserved. Picture (c) Jane Barlow / PA.