Father claims health board knew of water contamination issues, inquiry hears

The construction of the QEUH campus is being investigated by the Scottish Hospital Inquiry.

Father claims health board knew of water contamination issues, inquiry hears iStock

A father claims a health board knew about water contamination issues at a hospital where his daughter was treated for cancer years before it supposedly admitted to them.

Alfie Rawson’s daughter was diagnosed with leukaemia in August 2018 when she was two and a half, and she was treated as both an in and outpatient at the Royal Hospital for Children and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) in Glasgow for more than two years.

During the course of her treatment, Rawson said his daughter contracted multiple infections after bathing and showering at the hospital. 

He also noticed children in the hospital’s Schiehallion Ward, where his daughter was being treated, were told to wash with bottled water and water from the tap was being “doused in chlorine dioxide”.

Rawson carried out his own investigations and claims there were issues with the hospital’s water supply as far back as 2015, when the building first opened, which NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde knew about.

He said the health board claims to have only been made aware of these concerns in 2018.

The construction of the 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 Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh. 

Speaking at a hearing in Edinburgh on Thursday, Rawson said NHSGGC commissioned a water treatment company to carry out inspections just days after the QEUH opened in April 2015.

He told the inquiry the company’s report found issues with the water supply.

Rawson said: “There was stagnating water found in parts of the 14-storey building. 

“The hot and cold water were not running at correct temperatures.

“Five rooms were considered high risk due to builders’ debris found within them.  

“And the tanks were recommended to be disinfected.

“This report never reached boardroom level, or so we are told.”

Rawson said the recommendations in the report “weren’t followed up” by the NHSGGC. 

He told the inquiry between 2016 and 2018, there was “a spate” of infections related to the hospital’s water supply despite parents being told that “everything is OK in the hospital”. 

He said his daughter was put on extra medication to fight infections that were linked to the hospital’s environment, the inquiry heard.

Alastair Duncan QC, counsel to the inquiry, asked Rawson if his own investigations have raised more questions about the health board’s handling of the hospital’s environment concerns to which he replied: “Of course. 

“It’s the fact that nothing was actually done. 

“The infections started in 2016, the hospital knew about these infections, it knew something was wrong with the water supply. 

“To put children through this unnecessary treatment, drugs, sickness, when it was an easy fix. It beggars belief.” 

Earlier on Friday the inquiry heard from Rawson’s partner Charmaine Lacock who said she felt her child’s life was put at risk during her time in a hospital.  

Duncan asked Lacock: “How do you feel about the fact that your daughter had four infections in the hospital, and possibly that there is a connection between that and the hospital?”

To which she replied: “I feel angry, I feel that stole time that I could have had with my other girls and I felt that they put my child’s life at risk. 

“I felt that every time we had to stop chemo for treating an infection, that increased her risk of relapse and potentially death. I felt angry. 

“I’m petrified to think that she could relapse and we have to go back there.” 

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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