22 September 2021

Child’s death linked to infection at hospital was ‘murder’, mother tells inquiry

22 September 2021

A mother whose daughter died at a children’s cancer ward after contracting an infection has described her child’s death as murder.

Kimberly Darroch told the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry she wants the children and adult hospitals at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in Glasgow to close after witnessing her daughter’s treatment there.

She believes NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board should be punished after she claims staff covered up the true cause of her daughter’s death, which she found out about two years later in the media.

The inquiry began hearing evidence on Monday about problems at two flagship hospitals that contributed to the deaths of two children.

It is investigating the construction of the QEUH campus in Glasgow and the Royal Hospital for Children and Young People and Department of Clinical Neurosciences in Edinburgh.

In a statement read out at the inquiry on Wednesday, Ms Darroch said she was never given details of an infection that her daughter contracted when she died, which she later discovered contributed towards her death.

Ms Darroch also claimed hospital reports about her meeting with doctors to discuss the infection were false.

Her statement said: “My view is that the hospital should be closed. I don’t think it’s safe.

My view is that the hospital should be closed. I don’t think it’s safe

“I feel like the health board need to be punished for all of this. In my eyes, what happened to my daughter is murder.”

Ms Darroch’s daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia in 2012.

She died in 2017 after contracting stenotrophomonas maltophilia, an infection found in water, when she was being treated at the Royal Hospital for Children in Glasgow, the inquiry heard.

Ms Darroch said: “We have never discussed the infection with the hospital, at the time, or in the aftermath of my daughter’s death.”

She added: “I saw the stenotrophomonas infection on the death certificate and I had never heard of it before.

“I Googled it and saw it was an infection found in water, but I never thought anything untoward.

“Maybe I should have at that point, but I had just lost my daughter and I trusted everyone in the hospital.

“I didn’t expect an infection found in water to have killed my daughter. I didn’t ask any questions at that point.

Kimberly Darroch said she contacted the then health secretary Jeane Freeman with concerns (Fraser Bremner/Scottish Daily Mail/PA) (PA Archive)

“There was no further information from the hospital about my daughter’s death.”

It was not until two years later that Ms Darroch began to question the hospital’s handling of her daughter’s death, after reading articles  about child deaths linked to water contamination at the hospital.

She emailed then Scottish health secretary Jeane Freeman around November 2019, believing the reports were linked to her daughter’s death.

“I had a suspicion that something wasn’t right,” her statement said.

“I did get a response from Jeane Freeman’s office about three or four weeks later which said that someone would be in touch in due course, and then I got a further email to say it was being looked into.

“By that time the press articles had come out about the whistleblowers and the water contamination, and I instantly knew that the child they were talking about in the press was my daughter.

“I didn’t have any meetings with Jeane Freeman as a result of my email to her.

“After all the information appeared in the press, no-one from the hospital contacted me.”

I wish they’d told us right from the beginning all about the infection and not kept it to themselves

A statement from a Case Note Review completed by the hospital was read out at the inquiry and said “based on the information available to us, we consider that this infection was probably related to the hospital environment”.

Ms Darroch said she believes her daughter caught the infection from a bath or shower at the hospital, adding, “I feel really let down by the hospital. My daughter didn’t need to die.

“When she was in hospital, we kept getting told that we needed to keep her clean.

“I would have been happy for her to have been dirty if it meant saving her life.”

Ms Darroch added: “Since the link between the water and my daughter’s infection all came out, I think that the hospital has been burying its head and hoping it all goes away.

“They’re not communicating with the families at all.

“They keep saying in the media that they are more than happy to meet with the families but they’ve never once invited me personally to have a meeting with them.

“Their communication, or lack of communication, is absolutely shocking.”

Ms Darroch’s mother, Christine Horne, also had her statement read at the inquiry.

She said: “We’ve not had any communication from the hospital.

“The hospital should have been open and transparent. I wish they’d told us right from the beginning all about the infection and not kept it to themselves.

“At the end of the day, they’ve got to live with this.

“We’re living through it but they’ve got to live with it for the rest of their lives.

“Somebody has made a big mistake.”

Earlier on Wednesday, the inquiry heard from Lynn Kearns, who criticised a children’s hospital ward at the QEUH campus for having no running water while her young son received treatment for a rare disease in the building’s “prison-like” conditions.

She said her son was unable to shower for about two weeks while being treated in the hospital, despite vomiting on his own face during treatment.

Mrs Kearns’ son was 11 when he was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening blood disorder in December 2017.

He was treated in the Royal Hospital for Children at the QEUH campus between December 2017 and March 2018.

Mrs Kearns said she understood the water supply was cut off due to a certain type of bacteria being found in the system.

She said water supply issues at the hospital ward remain a problem today.

After taking her son into the same hospital on Monday, she said she spoke to two maintenance workers who are still changing filters on the sink taps every two months, the inquiry heard.

The inquiry in Edinburgh, chaired by Lord Brodie, will continue on Thursday.

Health boards will be giving evidence at a later stage in the inquiry.

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