PATIENTS in more than half of Scotland’s health boards are thought to have contracted coronavirus while being treated in hospital for other conditions, the Glasgow Times can reveal.

The Scottish Government is now being urged to tell the public exactly how many people have been affected across the country after confirming nine of the country's 14 health boards have recorded potential cases of hospital-acquired Covid-19 in their facilities.

Included in the total are nine patients at the flagship Queen Elizabeth University Hospital who picked up the virus while staying there for more than 14 days.

When asked for the number of patients in this situation across the country, the Scottish Government refused.

All data on hospital-acquired infections must be reported to Health Protection Scotland (HPS) however when asked, the taxpayer-funded health body deferred to the Scottish Government and failed to respond further.

Yesterday Nicola Sturgeon said the issue of hospital-acquired, or nosocomial, infections was “one of acute study and explanation… to make sure everything possible if being done in hospitals to restrict, reduce and contain that”.

The First Minister then said the figures would be published but currently the information was “not robust and reliable” enough to do so.

The same data on hospital-acquired infections is being used by the Scottish Government, public health experts and health boards to form part of their plan to tackle to pandemic.

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Speaking during the daily briefing beside Ms Sturgeon, Interim chief medical officer Dr Gregor Smith said that coronavirus “loves institutions” and its spread in hospitals was “an area of intense focus.”

He said: “This virus loves institutions, and of course hospital is an environment where, if we are not careful, then it can spread very, very easily.

“So we need to understand the lessons that have been learned from other countries as to how we try to combat that.”

Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservatives health spokesman, has written to Jeane Freeman asking her to publish the data.

He said: “I have raised the concerns surrounding hospital acquired Covid-19 with SNP Ministers and requested that this information is published at the earliest opportunity and made available to the public.

“Sadly we are hearing of an increasing number of patients and health professionals who have been infected with Covid-19 whilst they have been in hospital. That’s is deeply concerning for patients and staff and also in the interests of the coronavirus public health emergency.

“In recent years Scotland has led the way by providing transparency around the management of any nosocomial infection from MRSA to C-Diff. It’s now important that we see the same from SNP Ministers regarding Covid-19.”

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Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman, said it was vital for the figures to be released.

She said: “The Scottish Government should be providing regular updates on the number of hospital-acquired COVID-19 cases.

“It’s worrying that most health boards have experienced hospital outbreaks and the public will want to know what infection control procedures are in place to minimise the risk to patients and staff.

“Health care workers continue to raise their fears about the adequacy of PPE and the ‘rationing’ of COVD-19 testing. Scottish Labour continues to raise these issues with the Scottish Government. Not enough is being done to test, trace and isolate the virus. The lack of data being made public during the coronavirus outbreak is unacceptable.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “As of 8 April, suspected hospital-acquired COVID-19 cases have been reported in nine of Scotland’s 14 health boards. However, due to the prolonged incubation period of COVID-19, it is difficult to say with any degree of certainty whether these cases were picked up in hospital or in the community.

“Health Boards are implementing a range of measures to minimise any potential risk of transmission in hospital, with visits being restricted with only a few specific exemptions, following the latest guidance from HPS on infection prevention and control, and PPE guidance. HPS is continuing to work with health boards to monitor COVID-19 incidents in both hospital and community settings to ensure patient safety. The Scottish Government is being kept fully updated on this work.

“The Scottish Government is taking all possible steps to ensure health and social care staff have sufficient personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect them and the people they care for, and have delivered around 50 million items of PPE to hospitals over the past seven weeks.”

When asked why the Government would not say how many patients have been affected, a spokesman replied that the incubation period for the virus meant “we cannot determine to the high degree of certainty required exactly how many cases were acquired in hospital or were picked up in the community prior to hospital admission.”

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde confirmed nine patients at the QEUH, Scotland’s largest hospital, were among those who had contracted Covid-19 while in hospital, adding that staff were “rigorously following all infection control precautions” issued by HPS.

A spokeswoman added that this included restricting visiting to essential visits, and said:”Within the cohorts of patients being treated in our hospitals, we have a number who have tested positive for COVID-19 having been in hospital for longer than the 14 day incubation period. “These cases, including nine on the QEUH campus, have acquired COVID-19 whilst in hospital. Given that COVID-19 is a pandemic, it is difficult to apply the definition normally applied to hospital outbreaks and we are working with Health Protection Scotland to clarify this.”


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