‘Infectious’ TB patient forced to go home by train

The entrance to Raigmore Hospital, where the patient was discharged. Picture: Getty
The entrance to Raigmore Hospital, where the patient was discharged. Picture: Getty
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A TUBERCULOSIS patient was told she was too great an infection risk to be taken home by free-of-charge ambulance – only to be left to make her own way home on the train.

The woman, who has asked not to be identified, was discharged from Raigmore Hospital in Inverness after being treated in an isolation ward.

Doctors said the 52-year-old was still a risk to others and could not return home in the hospital vehicle with other patients.

Instead, she travelled for three hours by taxi and train to her home in the Helmsdale area of Sutherland, in the Highlands.

Her husband said he was angered and baffled at the way she was treated.

The woman is the fourth person to be diagnosed with tuberculosis in the Helmsdale area in recent weeks, and her husband said medics had to be far more careful about the spread of the infection.

He said: “She was put into an isolation ward and was told by the consultant when he made his rounds at 8am that she had TB. She was told to get herself home and that medication would be sorted out.”

Patient transport had already been booked but doctors cancelled it after explaining there was a risk that other vulnerable patients might pick up the airborne infection, which is spread by coughs and sneezes.

The woman was told she had the bacterial infection following tests at Raigmore. She had complained of feeling run down with flu-like symptoms, including coughing.

Her husband, who has been told he will now need to be tested for TB, said: “The doctor explained to my wife she couldn’t share patient transport with other patients whose immune systems were possibly low.

“We understand that, but we don’t understand why doctors did not arrange for her to
go home by ambulance or hospital car and why they were so blasé about allowing her to go out into the general population and travel home by public transport.”

In February, health chiefs confirmed that a child attending a nursery at Helmsdale Primary School had TB and another two residents are also being treated for the illness.

NHS Highland began a TB screening programme of nursery children and staff at the primary school on Monday because of the cluster of cases. There are no plans to screen primary pupils at this stage.

The woman involved in the latest case attended an appointment at Raigmore last Thursday when she underwent an examination of her lungs.

An NHS Highland spokesman said: “Without talking about individual cases, we would not want someone who has TB to be in prolonged contact on patient transport in close proximity with other people who have just been discharged from hospital.

“The risk to vulnerable people in such circumstances would be greater than any risk to other people travelling by public transport.”