Scottish Daily Mail

Hun­dreds killed by virus they caught on hos­pi­tal wards

- By Kate Fos­ter Scot­tish Health Ed­i­tor Health · Medicine · Coronavirus (COVID-19) · Infectious Diseases · Health Conditions · Donald Cameron · Scottish Government · Oxford University · Oxford · Scottish Labour Party · Monica Lennon · Alex Cole-Hamilton

AL­MOST a fifth of the Scots who died f rom Covid dur­ing the first wave of the pandemic are be­lieved to have caught the virus in hos­pi­tal.

A to­tal of 332 vic­tims ‘def­i­nitely’ be­came in­fected on a ward, while this was ‘prob­a­ble’ in an­other 96 cases.

All 428 peo­ple died within 28 days of test­ing pos­i­tive.

An­other 73 deaths were of ‘in­de­ter­mi­nate hos­pi­tal on­set’ – mean­ing it is un­known if this is where they were in­fected.

Un­der the same mea­sure­ment, Scot­land’s death toll by June 30 had hit 2,484, so 17 per cent of vic­tims ei­ther con­tracted the virus in hos­pi­tal or were likely to have done so.

The fig­ures are from free­dom of informatio­n re­quests and Pub­lic Health Scot­land data.

Prob­lems such as a lack of PPE dogged the NHS dur­ing the first wave of the pandemic.

But th­ese have been re­solved and front­line work­ers will be swabbed twice-weekly from next week. Emer­gency hos­pi­tal ad­mis­sions will be tested from next week, with this ex­tended to all ad­mis­sions next month.

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive health spokesman Don­ald Cameron called the hos­pi­tal in­fec­tion rate ‘tragic proof of the mess the SNP made when deal­ing with the first wave of Covid’.

He said: ‘That al­most a fifth of peo­ple who died from Covid i n the f i rst wave prob­a­bly caught it in hos­pi­tal – the very place they should have been safe – is shock­ing and heart­break­ing in equal mea­sure.

‘Although long over­due, I am glad the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment will now ex­pand Covid test­ing for health work­ers and hos­pi­tal pa­tients. We will be keep­ing a very close eye on the sys­tem.’

Scot­tish Labour health spokesman Mon­ica Len­non called the find­ings ‘ex­tremely wor­ry­ing’, adding: ‘Min­is­ters were warned months ago to t est all hos­pi­tal work­ers rou­tinely to stop the virus spread­ing. We can’t have a sit­u­a­tion where peo­ple who ur­gently need care can’t even risk go­ing into hos­pi­tal for fear of con­tract­ing Covid.

‘We need an in­ves­ti­ga­tion and trans­par­ent informatio­n about which hos­pi­tals have been af­fected and when.’

The num­ber of pa­tients be­ing in­fected with Covid on wards rose for an eighth con­sec­u­tive week i n the seven days to Novem­ber 1. A to­tal of 200 Scots def­i­nitely or likely caught coro­n­avirus in hos­pi­tals in that week – af­ter al­most dou­bling in the previous seven days.

Scot­tish Lib Dem health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamil­ton warned that trans­mis­sion i n hos­pi­tals ‘ risks putting peo­ple off seek­ing treat­ment’.

He said: ‘The Gov­ern­ment made big prom­ises around test­ing for health­care work­ers but strug­gled to live up to their warm words.’

Last week, Ox­ford Univer­sity epi­demi­ol­o­gist Pro­fes­sor Carl Heneghan high­lighted the prob­lem of Covid trans­mis­sion on wards.

He said: ‘ Where we’ve seen prob­lems, it’s of­ten mix­ing non-Covid pa­tients and Covid pa­tients, and staff tak­ing the virus be­tween ar­eas.

‘We need sep­a­rate en­trances, sep­a­rate staff work­ing on th­ese wards, and staff need to be quar­an­tined when they’ve been work­ing – no mix­ing.’

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment said hos­pi­tal-on­set death data included cases where Covid ‘may not have been the un­der­ly­ing or con­trib­u­tory cause’.

A spokesman added: ‘ At all times our ac­tions have been guided by the best and most up-to- date ex­pert sci­en­tific and med­i­cal ad­vice.

‘We’ve worked hard to en­sure that in­fec­tion pre­ven­tion and con­trol mea­sures in hos­pi­tal and care set­tings are ro­bust.

‘We al­ready have strong mea­sures i n place, such as the ap­pro­pri­ate use of PPE, ex­tended use of masks and cov­er­ings, phys­i­cal dis­tanc­ing and out­break man­age­ment.’

‘Heart­break­ing and shock­ing’

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