Former Scottish minister calls for inquiry over pigeon droppings infection

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A former Scottish health secretary has called for an inquiry into the deaths of two patients after they contracted a fungal infection linked to pigeon droppings at a hospital.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGCC) has launched its own probe into the deaths at Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

The health board said they are still investigating the cause of one patient’s death, but previously said the second affected, who was elderly, died of an unrelated matter.

Alex Neil MSP’s calls for an independent inquiry come as it emerged the infections were discovered in December, with filters brought in on January 10 to deal with the issue.

He told BBC Scotland: “I think there has to be an outside inquiry by experts to find why this happened in the first place, secondly how it has been handled by the health board and, thirdly, what precautions need to be taken for the future.

“There are confusing messages coming out of the health board so they need to clarify the situation and do so as a matter of urgency.”

The infection is caused by inhaling the fungus Cryptococcus, primarily found in soil and pigeon droppings.

NHSGCC said a likely source was found in a non-public area away from wards and the droppings were removed.

The health board said a small number of child and adult patients who are vulnerable to the infection are receiving medication and this has proved effective.

Queen Elizabeth University Hospital
The health board said it was unable to comment any further on the two cases (NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde/PA)

NHSGCC said that, during the course of investigations, a separate issue arose with the sealant in some of the shower rooms.

Repairs are under way and the maintenance team is working to fix the issue as quickly as possible with minimum disruption, it said.

The health board added that, as a further precaution, a specific group of patients are being moved within the hospital due to their clinical diagnosis and ongoing treatment.

A spokesman said: “The investigation remains ongoing into the cause of two isolated cases of Cryptococcus at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital

“The organism is harmless to the vast majority of people and rarely causes disease in humans.”

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