A father has told how he was left “shell shocked” after he almost lost his son to a hospital-acquired infection following an operation to remove the boy’s kidney.
Cameron Gough told the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry he did not expect to be put in a position where “a building almost killed our son”.
The inquiry began hearing evidence on Monday into problems at two flagship Scottish hospitals that contributed to the deaths of two children.
Mr Gough’s 10-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer after he became unwell in July 2018 when he was aged seven, and was found to have a kidney tumour.
In early September 2018 he had an operation to remove the kidney but his condition deteriorated after the operation and his room filled with medical staff battling to stabilise him.
Parents of children affected want answers for what happened, what went wrong and why
Steve Love QC
Mr Gough told the inquiry: “When you see the fear in doctors’ eyes, the fear of the intelligent people, not the trainees but the really intelligent people, that’s scary, that was difficult to cope with and we kind of steeled ourselves for dealing with cancer and the implications of cancer, what we didn’t expect was to be put in a position where a building almost killed our son.
“And that’s really to put it brutally, a hospital-acquired infection was the point we came closest to losing our son.
“Later I said, it was only a line infection, compared to what had happened with cancer and getting the kidney removed it was only a line infection and the doctors said no, this was the thing we are most concerned about.
“That put the fear of God in me, because my son has just had his kidney out, he has just had treatment for cancer and the most concerning thing about this weekend is a line infection.”
Mr Gough told the inquiry that the same thing happened the following day, and medical staff again managed to stabilise his son.
He was told the problem was a hospital-acquired infection, described as a “poo bug”.
Mr Gough said that he was left “shell shocked” by the experience and said “it shot my confidence in the hospital an awful lot”.
He praised the Schiehallion unit, the children’s cancer unit at the QEUH, but said he was concerned about levels of cleanliness in other areas of the hospital and said that on one occasion he found “brown matter” on the bed in the room that his son was placed in and had to have it changed.
After that experience he started cleaning rooms his son was put in as he was not confident they were clean.
The inquiry is investigating the construction of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.
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.
Steve Love QC is appearing on behalf of 54 parents or family members of patients, represented by Thompsons Solicitors Scotland, who were or are still being treated on the children’s cancer ward and neonatal unit at QEUH.
In his opening statement, he said children were “faced was serious infections, life threatening additional illnesses and a catalogue of other problems as a result of the hospital environment, the hospital water supply and the conduct of some of the medical staff there”.
Mr Love said: “Parents of the children affected want answers for what happened, what went wrong and why.
“Many of them have lost faith in the hospital as a safe place for their children to be treated.”
Earlier this year, an independent review found the deaths of two children at the QEUH were at least in part the result of infections linked to the hospital environment.
The review investigated 118 episodes of serious bacterial infection in 84 children and young people who received treatment for blood disease, cancer or related conditions at the Royal Hospital for Children at the campus.
It found a third of these infections were “most likely” to have been linked to the hospital environment.
Two of 22 deaths were, “at least in part”, the result of their infection, it said.
In his opening statement, Peter Gray QC, representing NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said it welcomed the inquiry and is determined to ensure that the issues which have required to be addressed in both hospitals do not arise in other future NHS infrastructure projects.
The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, continues.