Bug which led to cancelled ops found at Edinburgh's new Sick Kids hospital

Bacteria discovered in 50 taps but NHS Lothian says there is no cause for alarm

Thursday, 28th November 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 28th November 2019, 6:08 am

A BUG which led to operations being cancelled at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital earlier this year has been found in the water supply at the Capital’s new unopened Sick Kids hospital.

Health bosses insisted there was no cause for alarm because pseudomonas bacteria are very common and rarely affect healthy individuals, though they can be harmful to patients who are very vulnerable to infection. The bug thrives in wet places such as sinks, drains, taps and showers.

NHS Lothian confirmed it had been discovered in around 50 taps and baths at the new £150 million hospital out of well over 1,000 such fittings at the site. It said measures were being taken to tackle it.

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The new hospital was all set to open in July until ventilation problems were discovered
The new hospital was all set to open in July until ventilation problems were discovered

Brain operations at the Department of Clinical Neurosciences (DCN) at the Western General were suspended for a while in March after pseudomonas was found in a shower and taps.

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Operations halted after infection hits Edinburgh hospital ward

The new Sick Kids hospital at Little France - which will also house a new DCN - was due to open in July but the late discovery that ventilation in critical care did not meet national standards led Health Secretary Jean Freeman to order a delay. It is now scheduled to open next autumn.

An expert report commissioned by Ms Freeman into ventilation, water and drainage systems at the new hospital identified a limited presence of pseudomonas. It said testing identified no widespread contamination of the water systems but the pseudomonas bacteria had been found in some taps and system and site-wide disinfection was advised.

The building at Little France is now scheduled to open in autumn next year

Lindsay Guthrie, NHS Lothian acting infection control service lead, said: “As part of our robust building management, monitoring and hygiene control measures, we identified a small number of water outlets in the hospital that are affected by Pseudomonas aeruginosa. This not unusual and is not a cause for alarm. Pseudomonas can be found in many buildings in the water supply. It is a bacteria found widely in the environment. Pseudomonas can be present in normal drinking water.

“Many of us will carry this bacteria in our gut without being aware of it and it will be present in many household water systems without any harmful effects.

“However, exposure to these bacteria can be harmful to a small number of patients who are very vulnerable to infection. That is why we maintain a rigorous regime of water quality monitoring to ensure we identify this bacteria in areas of the hospital where we care for these types of vulnerable patients. This allows us to take corrective action quickly to eradicate the bacteria.”

She said that as a further precaution the whole water system would be disinfected before patients move in next year.