Parents of children being treated for cancer have complained about cleanliness standards at a flagship hospital weeks after a young patient died from a rare fungal infection.
Two families have lodged official complaints at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow in recent weeks claiming the wards are not being cleaned properly and accusing staff of failing to treat the issue seriously.
The complaints follow a major investigation by the Scottish Government after two patients, including a young boy being treated for cancer, died from a fungal infection.
Ministers ordered emergency inspections and audits of infection risks at the hospital. Wards treating young cancer patients were part of the inspection programme, as Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman insisted there was an “absolute focus on patient safety”.
However, families of children attending the hospital claim that standards fell after the inspections. They say wards are not being cleaned properly while some staff showed a lackadaisical attitude over the risk of infection.
A hospital insider confirmed two complaints from parents of desperately ill children have been received by the health board.
These outlined parents’ concerns over levels of dust, dirty floors and toilets not cleaned properly.
One source said: “Parents are still worried and still being fobbed off by staff.
“They are obviously going to be concerned about risks of infection when their children are so vulnerable. They are worried their children, whose immunity is lowered by the cancer treatment, will pick up something from the floor.”
The source said one parent was told by a domestic worker the floor-cleaning machine had been broken for weeks and they had nothing to clean the floor with.
“They told her they mop the floors when they have time but they concentrated on rooms,” the source said. “But the kids are playing on the floors, and some of them are in for infections caught because their immune systems are compromised.
“One of the three cleaners was on holiday and the hospital couldn’t find a replacement.
“As you will understand, this make us all nervous.
“All the kids are on anti-fungal drugs because of the risk of fungal infections. So parents are cleaning what they can with wipes.”
Parents claim that when they challenged some nurses they were told that failure to clean the floor just had to be tolerated.
“They seemed to suggest it was something that we just had to live with,” said one. “There did not seem any awareness of how vulnerable our children are. It was almost a shrug of the shoulders. Nothing was done.
“The families’ complaints about toilets centred round dirty linen left lying for days, used bedpans not collected for hours and showers not cleaned.”
The complaints, lodged with the health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), allege slipping standards at the child cancer ward (6A). Child patients were moved to 6A from the Schiehallion unit after bacteria was found in the water supply.
A spokesman for NHSGGC said: “We rigorously monitor cleanliness levels as part of our commitment to patient safety.
“Wards where we treat patients who are immuno compromised, including ward 6A, undergo normal rigorous cleaning processes and additional cleaning is undertaken daily.
“There is a dedicated team of cleaning staff on the ward and our senior facilities team work closely with our infection-control teams and nursing staff on the ward to monitor cleaning standards.
“If any issues are identified these are reported and quickly rectified.
“We do not recognise the claim that it took 15 hours to remove a bed pan.
“Infection Prevention and Control Nurses review the play area during their weekly enhanced supervision of the area and have identified no issues. There is also a dedicated play co-ordinator on the ward who has a specific cleaning schedule for all toys.
“A complaint from a family has been received and we will respond to the family in full.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “I require all health boards to make cleanliness and infection prevention and control an absolute priority each and every day. I expect concerns raised with the board to be addressed swiftly.”
‘Once inspectors left, floors got dirty and bedpans weren’t emptied’
We told in January how the families of young cancer patients described a climate of fear, confusion and secrecy as they tried to get information from hospital executives.
A youngster being treated for cancer was one of two patients who died after pigeon droppings in a plantroom spread cryptococcus, a potentially lethal fungal infection.
A huge clean-up was ordered amid a wave of health and safety inspections.
However, last week, a parent said standards slipped quickly afterwards.
They said: “Many of our kids have had their immune systems lowered as part of their cancer treatment.
“It means doing everything possible to keep them away from infections. Everyone is aware of the pressure there was to clean up for the inspection team.
“But within a short space of them leaving, floors were not cleaned and bedpans were left for hours uncollected in the loos.”