A mother whose daughter died after catching an infection linked to the water at a flagship hospital has demanded answers over its ‘contaminated’ supply.
Kimberly Darroch, 35, also accused health chiefs of a ‘cover up’ over the death of ten-year-old Milly Main, who had just beaten cancer.
The child was in remission at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) and preparing to go home when she developed an infection.
Yesterday, we told how a whistleblower had claimed a child had died from a bug linked to the hospital water supply.
The insider said an investigation uncovered the infection but the child’s parents were not told about the findings.
Last night, Miss Darroch said she felt ‘lied to’ and ‘let down’ – and demanded answers from Health Secretary Jeane Freeman and the health board, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
Her mother, Kimberly Darroch, (right) 35, from Lanark, told the BBC she is ‘100%’ certain contaminated water caused the infection
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it was not possible to conclude infections identified in 2017 were connected to the water supply. Milly in hospital
The scandal is the latest to hit the troubled £824million superhospital, which is at the centre of two safety inquiries.
Hospital bosses have insisted the water supply is safe and said that the source of Milly’s bug cannot be determined because supply testing was not carried out at the time of her death, in August 2017.
But she died from an infection caused by the bacteria stenotrophomonas, which was linked to water supply-related bugs among child cancer patients at the hospital during an investigation a year later.
Miss Darroch said: ‘I feel let down and lied to. There are no words. I am in shock. She [Milly] was fun, she was adventurous, she just liked a carry on. She never took life too seriously. I think that’s what got her through her treatment. She was very resilient. She was a character.’
Health Secretary ‘must resign or be sacked over serious failure’
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman was urged to resign last night after the death of Milly Main.
A whistleblower claimed this week that the ten-year-old died from an infection linked to a hospital’s water supply – and said that the child’s parents were not told.
Scottish Health Secretary Jeane Freeman during Topical Questions in the Scottish Parliament last month
Miss Freeman admitted she had known about the case for two months but did not make it public, sparking claims of a ‘cover-up’. Last night, Scottish Tory health spokesman Miles Briggs said: ‘There’s no way Jeane Freeman can continue [as Health Secretary].
‘It shouldn’t take a whistleblower to drag the truth out of this SNP Government.
‘It’s completely unacceptable. Patients will be furious such a serious failure has been covered up. The Health Secretary must apologise to the family and resign or, if she refuses, be sacked.’
The water supply at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH) and adjoining Royal Hospital for Children was found to have ‘widespread contamination’ after recent tests.
Health bosses said there was no evidence Milly’s infection – caused by the bacteria stenotrophomonas – was caused by such contamination. The official inquiry into the water supply at the QEUH found 23 cases of child cancer patients with stenotrophomonas in 2018.
The whistleblower told Labour MSP Anas Sarwar that an internal probe had uncovered an additional 26 cases since 2017.
Mr Sarwar said: ‘This devastating death has been covered up.’
In a letter to Mr Sarwar, Miss Freeman said she did not make Milly’s death public due to ‘patient confidentiality’. NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: ‘In 2017, we investigated two individual cases of stenotrophomonas which weren’t linked.
‘National guidance did not include a requirement for boards to test for it in the water supply. As no tests were carried out, it is not possible to conclude that these infections were connected to the supply.
‘We remain concerned that a member of staff has made a claim of a link when there is no evidence of this.’
Miss Darroch added: ‘She was getting to the stage where she was back to being Milly again and then on July 25 she got the infection and that’s when we lost her.’
Breaking down, the heartbroken mother went on: ‘I was getting to a point in life where I was able to face each day. It’s taken me back to when Milly died.’
Miss Darroch, a carer from Lanark, said Milly had been ill with leukaemia from the age of five.
After more than two years in Glasgow’s Yorkhill Children’s Hospital, which closed in 2015, she was deemed cancer-free. But when the disease returned, Milly was admitted to the QEUH – its campus includes the adjoining Royal Hospital for Children.
Her treatment was again successful and she was looking forward to going home and resuming hobbies such as rock-climbing.
However, Milly contracted an infection from her Hickman line – a catheter used to administer chemotherapy – which led to her developing sepsis.
Miss Darroch said: ‘After that it took them nine days to put Milly into intensive care, with her heart function down. Milly was blue before they took her to the intensive care unit.
‘When you’ve got a Hickman line, it’s open. She had showers every day in that hospital and I was very strict in cleaning it. Me and Milly cleaned it.
‘The shower heads were changed on more than one occasion and they [staff] were in checking the filters in the room as well.’
Miss Darroch said she and her partner were given very little information about the cause of death, adding: ‘We were told they didn’t know the infection she had and what caused her deterioration.
‘We were never given any clear indication of what caused Milly’s death.’
However, she started to get suspicious when she saw that ‘stenotrophomonas’ was listed as the cause of death on her daughter’s death certificate. In September this year, Miss Darroch wrote to Miss Freeman and pleaded with her to look into her daughter’s case.
The Health Secretary replied last month and said she would ensure that senior staff from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde would be in touch to address her questions.
Regarding the response, Miss Darroch said: ‘I was a bit shocked, just the fact that it didn’t really answer any of my questions, didn’t give me any information other than they were holding a public inquiry.’ Of the health board, she said: ‘I think they knew prior to Milly’s death that the water was contaminated and they knew this was the infection that killed my daughter.
‘I want an apology. I want them to admit what they have done is wrong – and I want them to admit that they have covered it up. This has just opened it all [the pain of Milly’s death] up again.’
Yesterday, Miss Freeman admitted that she had known about the case for two months, but cited the importance of maintaining patient confidentiality as her reason for not making a public statement.
But Miss Darroch said: ‘Of course there is patient confidentiality, but should that be kept from Milly’s parents? No.
‘She is a ten-year-old child. We are her parents. We deserve to know the truth.’
Milly’s father, Neil Main, added: ‘All the emotions have come back.’
A memorial to Milly by her classmates at Lanark’s Robert Owen Primary School describes the youngster as ‘an inspiration’.
It states that she was ‘a really kind and funny person and a delight to be around’, adding that she loved to climb the trees surrounding her school.
Milly Main (pictured) was in remission from leukaemia before contracting an infection in Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in 2017
The whistleblower who raised concerns about her death approached Labour MSP Anas Sarwar, who raised the case at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood on Thursday and called for a ‘full public apology’.
He said: ‘This is a devastating human tragedy. I have promised Milly’s family I will stand by them until they get the answers and justice they deserve, no matter how long it takes.
‘Getting answers for the family is the top priority. Jeane Freeman has very serious questions to answer and she needs to come before parliament.
‘The Health Secretary needs to remember that her job is to protect patients, families and staff, not institutions.’
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: ‘This week’s coverage will have been very challenging for Milly’s family. It is a tragedy in any situation when a young child dies.
‘We would again like to share our deepest condolences with the family involved.
‘We have offered to meet Miss Darroch to discuss her concerns and to answer her questions where we can. We fully understand that the family wants to know whether the infection Milly had is connected to the water supply.
‘The truth is, there is no way to know this as we did not consider this to be the source at the time and we did not test for the particular infection in the water supply.’
Miss Freeman is now facing calls from the Scottish Conservatives to resign – or be sacked – over this latest scandal at the QUEH, which opened in April 2015.