A young cancer patient was given an accidental overdose and was left with “dirty bedding for hours” due to staff being “overloaded” at a hospital facing a rise in infections, an inquiry heard.
Leann Young’s son was diagnosed with stage 4 Burkitt lymphoma, a form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, in 2018 when he was six years old.
He was treated as an inpatient and outpatient at the Royal Children’s Hospital (RCH) and Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) for 10 months where he contracted multiple infections, which Ms Young later found were likely due to water contamination issues at the hospital.
During their stay in hospital, Ms Young said infection control measures were so strict she and her son were required to self-isolate in their room “constantly”.
She said windows in the Schiehallion Ward, where her son was being treated, were not allowed to be open and fans were forbidden due to infection risk, making the room temperature “unbearable”.
The construction of the RCH and QEUH campus is being investigated by the Scottish Hospital Inquiry after issues at the flagship site were linked to the deaths of two children.
It is also examining the construction of the department of clinical neurosciences in Edinburgh.
Giving evidence at the inquiry remotely on Friday, Ms Young spoke about how nurses in the hospital were often “too busy” to attend to her son due to added measures in place to fight infections coming from the hospital’s water supply and ventilation system.
She spoke about an incident where a nurse gave her son an overdose of medication “by accident” which subsequently made him “violently sick”.
“His NH tube, which is the tube that ran from his nose into the gut, sometimes came out when he was sick and he had to be pinned down to have it reinserted,” Ms Young said.
“This was traumatic for him.”
Due to the high risk of infection, parents and guardians were unable to leave the hospital’s wards to change bedding and it was left to the nurses, the inquiry heard.
Ms Young said: “Nurses were so busy dealing with other patients that sometimes it would take hours to get fresh sheets.”
She told the inquiry about an incident when she asked a nurse for bed linen and was handed a “blood-stained blanket.”
Ms Young said: “It was disgusting.
“I asked why it hadn’t been checked beforehand but they weren’t interested,” adding “the staff were overloaded”.
Ms Young also told the inquiry stool and urine samples could be found sitting in her son’s ward “for hours and hours”.
In a statement read at the hearing Ms Young said: “You could have six or seven sample pots sitting in the bathroom waiting to be collected.
“As you can imagine, sitting in a room that’s warm, the smell was bad.
“I didn’t think it was hygienic them being left to sit that long but again, it was down to the nurses’ workload.
“They just had so many extra things they had to do that parents had been allowed to do before and now weren’t allowed to do.
“Nurses had a lot more tasks to take on due to new protocols for infections on the ward.”
Victoria Arnott, junior counsel to the inquiry, asked Ms Young if she was told about the hospital’s water contamination issues at the time to which she replied: “Any information we found out about the water was through the media and other parents.
“It wasn’t until I read my son’s medical records that I found out what infections he had while he was in hospital.
“There was no communication from staff.”
She also told the inquiry her son was put on multiple anti-fungal medications throughout his treatment to fight hospital-acquired infections, but was never told why at the time.
The inquiry was ordered after patients at the Glasgow hospital died from infections linked to pigeon droppings and the water supply, and the opening of the Edinburgh site was delayed due to concerns over the ventilation system.
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.
The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, continues.
Health boards will be giving evidence at a later stage in the inquiry.
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