Children’s cancer ward closes to new admissions after breakout of rare infection

Incident comes months after 10-year-old dies from disease linked to pigeon droppings 

Zamira Rahim
Sunday 04 August 2019 16:52
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The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is under increased scrutiny
The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital is under increased scrutiny

A children’s cancer ward has been closed to new admissions after three of its patients contracted infections.

The three youngsters are being treated at ward 6A at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow.

The hospital has been under scrutiny after two patients in January contracted an infection linked to pigeon droppings.

One of the patients, a 10-year-old boy being treated for cancer, died from his illness.

The deaths led Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman to order an independent review into whether the design, build, commissioning and maintenance of the £842 million two-hospital campus, which opened in 2015, has had an adverse impact on the risk of healthcare-associated infection.

The three newly diagnosed patients contracted the infections in the past fortnight.

Two are suffering from separate infections caused by different rare bacteria.

An investigation is being carried out into the source of the infections, with none so far being identified.

Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board said infection rates at the ward remain within expected levels.

“A number of measures have been taken to enhance the environment within ward 6A and to improve the quality of the water supply and of the air quality,” a health board spokesperson said.

“These measures are having good effect with positive results.”

“These are two different infections and at this stage there is nothing to link the infections to the ward’s infection control practices or the environment.

“In order to facilitate our investigations, we require to keep part of the ward unoccupied for a short period.

“New admissions are therefore temporarily being diverted. Outpatients and day cases continue as normal.”

Patients on the ward will be prescribed prophylactic antibiotics, as a precaution.

Infection outbreaks have also dogged the neighbouring Royal Hospital for Children (RHC).

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Patients were moved to QEUH's ward 6A as a temporary measure in September 2018, when two children’s cancer wards at the RHC were closed for upgrades following an infection outbreak.

A total of 25 cases of infection were found at the RHC between 2016 and September 2018.

Following an investigation, which found “widespread contamination of the water system that serves both QEUH and RHC”, health watchdog Health Protection Scotland is carrying out a national review of water systems at all healthcare facilities in Scotland built since 2013.

The health board said upgrades to the water system at RHC and QEUH are now complete but the RHC’s two children’s cancer wards remain closed for a ventilation system upgrade.

The board was unable to say when the work would end.

Additional reporting by agencies

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