Maintenance staff cut at pigeon death NHS Glasgow board

The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow is under review following a child's death linked to pigeon droppings. Picture: John Devlin
The Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow is under review following a child's death linked to pigeon droppings. Picture: John Devlin
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The number of maintenance staff at the NHS board responsible for the Glasgow hospital where a child died after contracting an infection linked to pigeon droppings has fallen significantly over the past two years.

Official figures show that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) had 385 maintenance and estate staff in 2018, a drop of more than 11 per cent on the number it employed in 2016.

The health board is responsible for the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, which is at the centre of a major investigation following the death of a child last month.

Post-mortems carried out on two patients who died at the hospital in December showed they had infections caused by inhaling the cryptococcus fungus, which is found in pigeon droppings.

While the infection in the first patient did not contribute to their death, it did have a role in the death of a child who passed away shortly afterwards.

Authorities suspect that pigeons were able to access a room containing machinery on the 12th floor of the hospital through a small crack in the wall, leading to harmful bacteria from their droppings entering the closed ventilation system.

Health secretary Jeane Freeman has ordered an investigation into the design and construction of the £842 million building, adding that its fabric appeared to be “less than satisfactory”.

Since the hospital opened in 2015, the building has been plagued by problems with its water supplies, heating system and windows, prompting some patients to describe it as a “war zone”.

Ms Freeman told MSPs on Tuesday that the inquiry would seek to establish whether maintenance programmes at the hospital should be “more robust or frequent”.

As well as the cuts in Glasgow, official NHS statistics show that the number of maintenance staff employed by health boards across the country has fallen by 5.6 per cent since 2016.

The figures were highlighted by the Scottish Conservatives. The party’s health spokesman Miles Briggs said the cuts could have “desperate consequences” for patients. “The big question is why ministers are failing to stop things like this happening in the first place, and why it takes a scandal like this for them to act,” he added.

Ms Freeman insisted that infection control at the hospital was adequate