The father of a boy being treated for cancer said he believes his child was given a “secret” supply of disease-prevention drugs amid a period of “covered-up” hospital-acquired infections at a children’s cancer ward.
David Campbell’s son was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer in August 2018 when he was four-years-old.
The boy was being treated in the Royal Hospital for Children (RHC) and Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow, which are at the centre of an inquiry into problems that contributed to the deaths of two children.
The inquiry was ordered after patients died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and the water supply.
Mr Campbell told the inquiry his son was given a “cocktail” of antifungals and prophylactics as part of his cancer treatment “as a precaution in case anything should crop up”, before he was aware of the hospital hygiene concerns.
But after reading reports about water contamination at RHC in the media, he began to raise questions about the extra supply of antifungals to children in the cancer ward.
He told the inquiry he was not told about one of the drugs – posaconazole – being part of his son’s medical plan, adding “if I ever was, then it was not fully explained why and what the gravity of taking it would be”.
He said: “All we got was a generic handout put under the door to say that it was a medication that the children were going to be put on as protocol, it was better to be safe than sorry.”
Mr Campbell said in hindsight he recognised the drug potentially helped his son fight off a hospital-acquired infection, but said his child should have been in a sterile and safe environment.
“It doesn’t make it right, giving them an anti-venom and letting the snake keep biting away at them,” he added:
“It’s absurd and that’s what they’ve done because in that environment it was all wrong.
“So they seem to think by giving them the prophylactics it made it acceptable.”
The inquiry heard Mr Campbell wrote to Jonathan Best, the chief operating officer at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), on January 6 last year about his concerns over the “secret use of prophylactics and other environmental issues” at the hospital.
According to a statement from Mr Campbell, Mr Best replied saying that the health board was first aware of issues in the wards in 2018 and that the health board was “alarmed” to hear about children being put on prophylactics secretly, and that families should have been spoken to about it.
In response, Mr Campbell said NHSGGC’s claims it first knew of the water contamination issues in 2018 are “preposterous”.
He told the inquiry: “I can’t fathom it at all.
“Especially after whistleblower evidence in 2017 from senior clinicians and people in respectable positions in the healthcare environment.
“So for the NHS chief operating officer to tell me that he had no idea up until 2018 is not only insulting, it’s offensive.”
He added: “There is a massive cover-up going on here, a web of deceit that can only be explained by their (health board) silence.
“It would give me a lot of closure if I could get my questions answered and move forward.”
In a closing statement to the inquiry, Mr Campbell said: “This Glasgow flagship hospital is where children were given cocktails of strong drugs to prevent them from dying – by this I don’t mean what was agreed by parents for their children to fight these life-threatening cancers – I mean the incredibly powerful anti-fungal medicine pumped into them to save their wee lives from the dangers of the building that was allegedly saving them.
“Does anyone understand how much fear that creates? That feeling of total helplessness knowing there is nowhere else to go.
“To be given a chance to fight cancer you need a fortress, our fortress was rotten from within.”
Earlier this year, an independent review found the deaths of two children at the QEUH campus were at least in part the result of infections linked to the hospital environment.
It found a third of these infections were “most likely” to have been linked to the hospital environment.
The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, continues. Health boards are due to give their evidence at a later date.