'Every day Nicola Sturgeon waits to act risks more tragedy at QEUH' says widow of Scottish Government official

The widow of a top Scottish Government official who died at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow has rejected claims from the health board it was open and honest about his treatment.

Andrew Slorance, who died last December in QEUH.
Andrew Slorance, who died last December in QEUH.

Louise Slorance also said she did not accept the response from Nicola Sturgeon in Holyrood about her husband’s care or the conduct of staff at the hospital which is central to an ongoing public inquiry.

In a statement, she said a lack of action from the First Minister risked more tragedy at the hospital.

Ms Slorance’s husband, Andrew, who worked in the Scottish Government’s response and communications unit and was at the heart of the government’s response to Covid-19, died after contracting the virus while at the QEUH for cancer treatment.

On Thursday, Ms Slorance accused the health board of concealing information about her husband’s care including the fact he tested positive for a life-threatening fungal infection, and blamed the hospital for his contraction of Covid-19.

She said the lack of information provided to the family was in order to prevent damaging the reputation of the hospital.

The case was brought up during First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Thursday by Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar, who labelled the QEUH controversies the "worst scandal in the devolution era”.

Responding Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would “not tolerate cover-ups or secrecy” and said her officials were seeking more information around the case.

However, Ms Slorance said today that she rejected the comments from the First Minister and the comments from the health board.

She said: “We have lost Andrew forever, but we need to prevent what happened to him happening to others.

“Every minute the First Minister waits to take action on the QEUH risks more families having to endure what we, and many other families, have gone through. Action needs to be taken now.

“I do not accept the responses given yesterday and nor do I accept the claims from the health board that they were honest with us.

“To date I have received three batches of medical notes over a 10-month period, and I still have no information as to why Andrew was moved from preventative anti-fungal treatment to active treatment in mid-November.”

She added: “The health board claim they have been open and honest. Was it open and honest to have told me while my husband was dying that there was “potential for additional infection” when the medical notes I only saw after Andrew’s death revealed that tests had confirmed aspergillus three days before this, and that treatment had had to be escalated?

“This is not transparency, this is not honesty and it will not stop these type of events happening in the future.

“As has become clear to me since Andrew’s death, the health board are selective in the information they provide.

“I ask that all information shared with Scottish Government regarding Andrew’s case is shared immediately with myself, including the aspergillus case review which despite requests is yet to be shared with me.”

Mr Slorance’s cause of death was recorded as Covid pneumonia, although he had been treated for the infection caused by a fungus called aspergillus, which his widow claims was not discussed with either of them during his hospital stay.

Mrs Slorance only discovered the fact her husband had been infected with the common fungus, aspergillus, which can be dangerous if it infects those with a weaker immune system, when she requested a copy of his medical records.

The alleged issues at the QEUH has been raised multiple times by Anas Sarwar at Holyrood, including the case of Millie Main who died after contracting a rare bacterial infection which officials admitted was “probably” caused by the hospital.

A public inquiry is underway to investigate the construction of the 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.

In Holyrood on Thursday during First Minister’s Questions, he called the scandal at the QEUH the worst of the devolution era and called on Nicola Sturgeon to take action.

Mr Sarwar said there was a culture of “cover-up, denial, and families being failed” in the hospital.

Jackie Baillie, Scottish Labour's health spokesperson, repeated calls for the First Minister to demand the resignation of NHSGCC’s leadership.

She said: “The very least the First Minister could do is take action to make sure the ongoing risk is dealt with and future patients are spared their torment.

“These failings happened on Nicola Sturgeon’s watch. She was health secretary when the hospital was commissioned and built and she was First Minister when it was opened.

“She cannot hide behind the process of a public inquiry to avoid taking action now to make this hospital safe.

“To honour the work of people like Louise she must rebuild trust in the wake of a culture of cover-up, secrecy and denial. A good place to begin that work would be to finally demand the resignation of the leadership at Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board.”

Responding, a spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said they urged Mrs Slorance to meet with them to discuss her husband’s care.

They said: “Our thoughts and sincere condolences are with the family and loved ones of Mr Slorance and we are sorry that any questions they have around his care have further added to their grief.

"Mrs Slorance is asking a number of questions that, due to patient confidentiality, would not be appropriate to discuss in the media.

"We would urge Mrs Slorance and her family to meet with us to discuss the care provided and address the issues they have raised.

"We hope, by meeting, this will help to provide some comfort to the family at this time and will reassure them of our commitment to openness and transparency with all our patients and their families.”

Mr Slorance was first diagnosed with mantle cell lymphoma in 2015, but the disease had recently returned. He had been due to undergo a stem cell transplant, but the procedure was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He wrote a popular blog about his battle with the disease and raised a significant amount of money for cancer charities – most recently a 300-mile cycle challenge, which he undertook just months before his death.

The Scottish Government was contacted for comment.

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