Scottish hospitals inquiry: Milly Main's death after hospital infection was 'murder', says mother

The death of ten-year-old Milly Main following an infection at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) campus in 2017 has been labelled “murder” by her mother.

Giving evidence to the Scottish Hospitals Inquiry on Wednesday, Kimberly Darroch called for the adult and children’s hospitals on the campus to be closed.

Milly died after contracting an infection linked to water, which a case note review published this year found was “probably” linked to the hospital environment.

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In a statement read to the inquiry on her behalf, Ms Darroch said she and Milly's father had not been told what the infection was, and that she only discovered it was caused by Stenotrophomas maltophilia when looking at the death certificate several weeks later.

Kimberly Darroch and daughter Milly Main

“My view is that the hospital should be closed,” she said.

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

"She should still be here and I am trying to come to terms with that after coming to terms with losing her initially. I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to.”

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Ms Darroch said she did not initially know about issues reported around the building and water supply at the QEUH campus, and only found out about concerns raised over Milly’s death when this was reported in the media in November 2019.

“I didn’t look at the death certificate until about five or six weeks after [my daughter] had passed away,” Ms Darroch said.

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

Ms Darroch said she believes Milly caught the infection in her Hickman line, used to administer chemotherapy, from a bath or shower.

She had a stem cell transplant in June, which her parents later found out had been successful in treating her leukaemia.

"[My daughter] didn’t need to die,” Ms Darroch said.

"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.

"The bottom line is that I believe that she caught the infection from a shower or bath as that is the only time her line was near water.

"Since the link between the water and [her] infection all came out, I think that the hospital has been burying its head and hoping it all goes away.”

A case note review of 84 children who developed infections at the QEUH found a third “probably” originated in the hospital, while the rest were “possibly” picked up there.

The review into Milly’s death considered a possible link to another infection that occurred ten days earlier on the same ward at the hospital, and the fact that she had been an inpatient in the same ward for almost two months before the infection’s onset.

The inquiry also heard from Lynn Kearns on Wednesday, whose 11-year-old son was treated for cancer at the QEUH campus in 2017 to 2018.

Ms Kearns said her son was unable to shower for two weeks after the water supply was cut off due to concerns about bacteria, despite being left with vomit on his face after treatment.

She described the hospital ward as a “prison”, with no working entertainment facilities and “horrendous and unhealthy” food.

“He had his endotracheal tube removed, however, this was a harrowing event and also left him with vomit on his face,” Ms Kearns said.

“The first thing he wanted to do was have a proper wash or shower and freshen up. This was impossible due to the lack of hot water and showering facilities being out of bounds.”

She added: “The whole experience was so unpleasant for him. Even months after, he was having panic attacks and flashbacks to his time in hospital.”

Mrs Kearns said after pressing staff for better washing facilities, she was given a basin and some warm water two days after her son had vomited on his face.

She said: “My 11-year-old son, just hitting puberty, had to stand in the bathroom on a towel and I had to use a plastic cup to try and wash him.

“It was literally a case of me scooping up the water and pouring it over him. He was at the age where changes were happening and he was becoming more conscious about his body, so standing naked while his mum washed him was humiliating for him.”

Another witness, Cameron Gough, told the inquiry on Monday his seven-year-old son was “almost killed by a building” after contracting a line infection during cancer treatment at the QEUH in 2018.

In its opening statement to the inquiry, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: ““NHSGGC has the greatest sympathy for the suffering and anguish that has so obviously been experienced by patients and families alike and, against this background, welcomed the announcement made by the-then health secretary in September 2019 that there would be a public inquiry into the issues which have arisen.

“NHSGGC is determined to ensure that the issues, which have required to be addressed in both hospitals, do not arise in any other future NHS infrastructure project, and it will provide all the assistance that it can to the inquiry to enable it to fulfil its vitally important remit.”

The inquiry, chaired by Lord Brodie, continues.

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