Bug which led to cancelled operations at Edinburgh’s Western General returns

General view of the Edinburgh Western General Hospital. Picture: Ian Rutherford
General view of the Edinburgh Western General Hospital. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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A BUG which led to a number of non-emergency operations being cancelled at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital earlier this year has been detected there again.

A staff member claimed the bacteria Pseudomonas Aeruginosa was being “identified weekly” in different parts of the Department of Clinical Neuroscience (DCN) – whose move to Little France along with the Sick Kids Hospital was cancelled earlier this month.

But NHS Lothian insisted only a small number of positive results had been found, mostly in non-clinical areas.

The bug thrives in wet places such as sinks, drains, taps and showers.

Operations were suspended for a while in March after some patients were found to be infected with the bacteria found in a shower and taps.

The staff member told the Evening News: “Pseudomonas has increased in the old DCN wards. Elective surgery seems to continue despite the risk for infection.”

The move of DCN and the current Sick Kids Hospital to the new hospital next to the Royal Infirmary was halted at the last minute after NHS Lothian told Health Secretary Jeane Freeman the ventilation system in the critical care unit did not meet national standards.

Ms Freeman announced on Thursday that more checks are needed on the building before patients are allowed to move in, with the water, ventilation and drainage systems top priority.

Tom Waterson, branch chair of health union Unison, said he knew there was an issue with water-borne infection at DCN.

He said: “They’re getting all these checks on the new hospital, but the question is has a full health and safety check been carried out on the current building?

“Some people say they might be safer moving to the new building.”

And Edinburgh Western MSP and Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said the health board should consider closing the ward because of the infection.

He said: “When staff on the ground feel compelled to contact the Evening News because their concerns are not being listened to that should sound a warning bell to everyone.

“The health and safety of patients and staff must come first in all considerations around ward closures and that may be necessary to answer this problem.”

Professor Alison McCallum, director of public health and health policy at NHS Lothian, said: “We have a structured, weekly water sampling programme to monitor for the presence of pseudomonas in the water supply at Department of Clinical Neurosciences.

“A small number of positive results have been identified in water samples recently, predominantly in non-clinical areas.

“In line with national guidelines, these water outlets are taken immediately out of use until the issue is rectified by our estates department and further water tests confirm that the water is free from pseudomonas.

“Strict infection prevention and control measures remain in place.

“These issues are not impacting on elective surgery or delivery of patient care and the actions taken minimise risks to patients. Health Protection Scotland is aware of this issue and the approach taken by NHS Lothian.”