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22.01.19

Health secretary to meet Glasgow hospital bosses over deaths in pigeon infection outbreak

Scotland’s health secretary is to meet top NHS officials to discuss the outbreak of an infection caused by pigeon droppings which has led to two patient deaths at an £842m Glasgow hospital.

An investigation is underway into the fungal infection outbreak at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH), and health secretary Jeane Freeman is set to speak to both the chief executive of NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) and senior staff to seek reassurance for patients’ safety.

Two patients died at QEUH after reportedly contracting the fungal infection after they caught the airborne disease, inhaling the fungus cryptococcus— typically found in pigeon droppings.

NHSGGC, who run the hospital, has launched an investigation and claimed that “control measures” have been introduced as the investigation continues, but a number of children and adult patients considered vulnerable to the infection are receiving treatment.

Freeman told the BBC: “Our primary concern, and that of NHSGGC, remains the safety and wellbeing of the patients and their families at the hospital.

“I am meeting with the health board's chief executive and senior clinicians to discuss this incident and the necessary next steps and will be joined by the chief nursing officer and the national clinical director.”

The trust’s health board has said control teams have been working to ensure a safe clinical environment for patients at the hospital. A non-public room containing machinery has been identified as a likely source of the outbreak.

It said in a statement that one of the patients was elderly had died due to an unrelated cause whilst the other death is being investigated.

Former health secretary Alex Neil, speaking to the BBC, called for an external inquiry to find out why this had happened, examine how it had been handled by the health board, and determine what precautions needed to be taken in the future.

The SNP MSP said that whilst NHSGGC would not want to cause panic, there are “confusing messages coming out of the health board so they need to clarify the situation and do so as a matter of emergency.”

Image credit - George Allison

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