Scottish Labour: Hospital-acquired Covid a “disaster waiting to happen”

Andrew Kersley

Scottish Labour has warned of a “disaster waiting to happen” in Scotland’s hospitals this winter after a new report found that there had been a significant increase in the number of hospital-acquired Covid-19 cases in recent weeks.

Public Health Scotland figures released today have shown an increase in the number of people catching coronavirus while in hospital, with 61 definite cases of hospital-onset Covid being recorded in the week ending October 11th.

This is close to a 500% rise in the number of hospital-acquired Covid cases in Scotland compared to the previous week when just 13 of the country’s coronavirus cases were recorded as originating in a hospital.

Commenting on the figures, Scottish Labour health and social care spokesperson Monica Lennon said: “This is a worrying development and more proof that the Scottish government needs to get its act together to ensure our hospitals are safe.

“We cannot have a situation where people, who urgently need care, cannot even risk going into hospital for fear of contracting Covid-19. Our health service is operating beyond capacity with the pandemic leaving no room at all to cope when seasonal illnesses strike.”

The Central Scotland MSP concluded: “It is a disaster waiting to happen. The SNP government has failed our elderly with the care homes fiasco and cannot risk another – lessons must be learned.”

The new report also found that a further 33 cases had been recorded as probably originating in a hospital. 16 of these probable cases and 42 of the definite cases were recorded by the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board.

While the rise in the number of hospital-acquired Covid cases is significant, they still make up a small proportion of the country’s cases – just over 1% of the country’s 7,710 recorded Covid cases that week.

The research follows reports that senior doctors at Glasgow Royal Infirmary wrote a joint letter to management raising concerns about the suitability of the building to robustly manage infection prevention and control.

Vice president of the Scottish Royal College of Emergency Medicine John Thomson has warned today that the Scottish NHS is at risk of overcrowding this winter as a result of bed shortages and severely restricted capacity during the pandemic.

The Scottish Labour intervention comes after the party declared last week that the SNP must be “held to account” over its handling of the pandemic in the care sector as it was revealed elderly Covid patients were discharged into care homes.

A report from Public Health Scotland showed that between March 1st and May 31st, 123 elderly patients in the country were moved from hospitals into care homes despite having received a positive coronavirus test.

The figures also revealed that 3,061 untested patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes during that period, 112 of which remained untested even after the guidance on the issue changed on April 22nd.

During the early weeks of the pandemic, many hospitals discharged elderly patients into the community without Covid tests, or even after testing positive, in an effort to free up beds amid an influx of coronavirus patients.

It was later found that many of those patients “seeded” the virus into care homes. It has been estimated by the Office for National Statistics that as many as 30,000 care home residents in England and Wales may have died from coronavirus.

Care homes in Scotland have been particularly badly hit by coronavirus, with research from August showing that 47% of the country’s Covid deaths came from care homes, as opposed to 30% in England and 28% in Wales.

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