A former health secretary has called for an inquiry into the deaths of two hospital patients who contracted a rare infection linked to pigeon droppings. Alex Neil said the cause of the deaths and the handling of the cases by Scotland’s biggest health had to be looked into. The Cryptococcus infections have been linked to the excrement of birds that got into a non-public area at the flagship Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Glasgow. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGCC) has launched a probe into the death of one patient, with the cause still to be determined. The health board said the second patient affected – who was elderly – died of an unrelated matter. The Scottish government confirmed the infection was reported in December. Mr Neil 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.” The SNP MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, who was health secretary between 2012 and 2014, questioned why it took three weeks for the news to be made public. He added: “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.” “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” Alex Neil A non-public room, thought to contain machinery, has been identified as a likely source. Measures have been taken to keep pigeons out of the area while portable units that filter the air continuously have been installed. A Scottish government spokesman: “Our primary concern, and that of the Health Board, remains the safety and wellbeing of the patients and their families at the hospital. “There is an on-going review of two isolated cases of an unusual fungal infection within the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital site, which were detected in December 2018.” A spokesman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board said an investigation remains ongoing. “These two cases of infection were identified in December and an incident management team was formed. “A likely source was identified and dealt with immediately. “The small number of paediatric and adult patients who are vulnerable to this infection are receiving medication to prevent potential infection and this has proved effective. “Air sampling was carried out and HEPA filters were brought in on 10 January to specific areas before conclusive results were available. “Results identifying the organism were obtained on 16 January. “Early indications suggest the filters are having a positive effect. “The organism is harmless to the vast majority of people and rarely causes disease in humans. “We are unable to comment further on the two cases due to patient confidentiality.”
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