Rudolph sparks infection alert at children’s hospital
A HEALTH board has ordered a review after a young reindeer was taken round wards at a children’s hospital, sparking concerns about the risk of infection.
The tame fawn “visited” wards at Glasgow’s Sick Children’s Hospital. It had been checked by a vet, and had initially been outside the hospital to cheer up patients and their families in the run-up to Christmas.
The animal, from the Cairngorm Reindeer Herd, was paraded around the hospital grounds and posed for photographs with Santa Claus, as former Rangers star Mark Hateley signed autographs at the event organised by the Yorkhill Children’s Foundation.
But a member of staff decided to take the fawn inside to allow more young patients to see it.
Officials last night described the incident as “well-intentioned”, but said the decision was taken without the permission or knowledge of managers or senior clinical staff.
The health board insisted that the reindeer had no contact with any patients in isolation.
In a statement, the board said: “Appropriate infection control procedures were taken with children who petted the animal.
“The reindeer fawn did not go into any isolation cubicles or have contact with any patient in isolation.”
It is understood that the patients who did pet the fawn were later given antiseptic wipes with which to clean their hands.
Professor Hugh Pennington, emeritus professor of bacteriology at Aberdeen University, said that although the risk of infection was low, animals should not be taken into hospitals.
“There is a potential risk,” he said. “Animals like deer do carry E coli 0157, and if the children did pet the deer, it would be important that they cleaned their hands immediately after.
“The other thing is that these kids’ immune systems are not top-notch and they will be in hospital for treatment of diseases which will have had an impact on their immune systems or will be receiving medication that will have an impact on them.”
Dr Jean Turner, of the Scotland Patients’ Association, said bringing the fawn into the wards was “thoughtless”, particularly during winter when the risk of infection is higher.
“I don’t suppose any animal, no matter how well shampooed and clean it was, should be allowed into a hospital without prior knowledge and the correct arrangements made,” she said.
“I think it was well-intentioned, but I don’t think anyone was thinking about the consequences of taking a live animal like that to a hospital. ”
She said that there were occasions when animals such as dogs were brought into the wards for patients to pet, but that these were pre-arranged and the correct hygiene procedures followed at all times.