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Pigeon dropping infection confirmed as 'contributing factor' to child’s death

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, Glasgow. Credit: PA

An infection linked to pigeon droppings was a "contributing factor" in the death of a child at Scotland's flagship hospital, it has been confirmed.

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman confirmed a post-mortem examination carried out on the youngster showed the Cryptococcus bacteria was a factor in their death.

Cryptococcus bacteriais primarily found in soil and pigeon droppings.

Pigeon droppings appeared in a plant room on the hospital’s rooftop via a small break in the wall, which was "invisible to the naked eye", Ms Freeman said.

Adding it was unclear how the bacteria had entered the ventilation system, she said a review would be carried out in the design, build, handover and maintenance of Glasgow's Queen Elizabeth University Hospital.

Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman. Credit: PA

An earlier patient at the flagship hospital was also found to have an infection caused by inhaling the fungus Cryptococcus, but Ms Freeman confirmed it did not contribute to their death.

The hospital was built for the Scottish Government at a cost of some £842 million and opened at the end of April 2015.

Despite the hospital having only recently been constructed, Ms Freeman said there appeared to be a "number of instances" where the fabric of building was "less than satisfactory".

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After visiting the hospital on Tuesday morning, the Health Secretary said: "I have agreed a review, with external expert advice, that will look at the design of the building, the commissioning of the work, the construction of the building, the handover of the building and the maintenance of the building, in order to ensure we identify where issues were raised that should have been addressed."

Ms Freeman announced the review after setting out "clear factual points" on the two patient deaths to MSPs at Holyrood.

She confirmed the Cryptococcus bacteria had initially been identified in one patient in November 2018 but was not linked to that person’s death the following month.

"In December a post-mortem of a child who has passed away confirmed that Cryptococcus was both present and a contributory factor in their death," she added.

Ms Freeman said the second case triggered the introduction of infection control measures by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, including prescribing anti-fungal medication to "vulnerable patients" and additional air filters.

"I am confident the board have taken all the steps they should to ensure and maintain patient safety," she added.

Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said the public would be "shocked" to learn one of those who had died was a child as she claimed there had been a "complete lack of clarity" from the health board about the infection.

Ms Lennon said: "I think the people of Scotland will feel it is absolutely extraordinary that in a modern hospital, Scotland’s flagship and apparently super hospital no less, we have a situation where pigeons and infections can kill patients."