A decision to transfer elderly patients from Glasgow’s super-hospital to Gartnavel led to Covid-19 cases spreading “like a cruise ship” with 25 deaths and 81 cases in a matter of weeks, whistleblowers have claimed.

As reported in our sister paper the Glasgow Times, elderly patients admitted after falls and illnesses were moved out of the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital where there were “hundreds of empty single rooms” and transferred to open bays at Gartnavel General due to fears the super-hospital might become overwhelmed by Covid cases.

Whistleblowers claim many tested negative when admitted to Gartnavel but developed the virus because there was “active infection” in the wards they were transferred to and they were not isolated on arrival.

According to a hospital source, infection control was only recently tightened to ensure patients are isolated on admission.

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A spokeswoman for NHSGGC said “a lot had been learned” about the transmission of the virus and said extra infection control measures were put in place when it was noticed there was a rise in cases at Gartnavel.

Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon described the allegations as “extremely serious” and called for an investigation into infection control procedures at Gartnavel. 

Our source said: “In the last few weeks, 81 people have tested positive in Gartnavel and 25 of those have died. 

“Before transfer many of them had tested negative for the virus.

HeraldScotland:

“These aren’t people who came in with Covid, they came in with things like broken hips, falls, dementia etc, but they have been diagnosed with it in Gartnavel.

“Nobody seemed able to stop patients being transferred over, they just said we had to keep QEUH empty in case it got worse, but it didn’t, and these poor people suffered as a result.

“It’s like having a cruise ship or a care home where the virus is spreading, but they still keep sending more to us, rather than closing.”

The source said that other wards were later opened up at Gartnavel and those who had tested positive were transferred there.

However, existing patients who were left are said to have became infected by new admissions who “arrived with the virus”.

The source said: “This also meant patients moved wards many times, as many as six different wards, before they sometimes died. We think the multiple moves probably caused infections as well.

“In some ways, it’s worse than being in a care home, where at least you have your own room, in the open bays you are just breathing the same air as the person opposite you, and if they have the virus, its seemed that you are pretty likely to get it too.

“It would be okay if the QEUH was full, and there was no alternative but in the last few weeks QEUH has had hundreds of empty single rooms, and these haven’t been filled.”

HeraldScotland:

Ms Lennon said: “”If infection control has not been properly applied at Gartnavel, and this has led to transmission of Covid-19 cases within wards, then NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Scottish Ministers need to be upfront about this and pledge to urgently investigate.

“The public also need assurance that any unsafe movement between wards has now stopped, and that if they are admitted to hospital for non-Covid reasons that they will be safe.”

A spokeswoman for NHSGGC said: “The death of any patient from Covid-19 is a tragedy and we offer our condolences to those who have lost a loved one during this pandemic.

“As the public are aware, this is a very challenging disease and we have all learned a huge amount about the disease and its transmission in a few short months. 

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“In April, when our surveillance showed a small rise in the numbers of patients in Gartnavel General testing positive, we immediately reviewed our existing processes. 

“To ensure we continued to maintain a safe environment, we put in place additional measures to protect our patients, including the introduction of green, red and amber pathways to separate Covid from non-Covid patients.

“The transfer of patients from QUEH to GGH is an established pathway for treating patients requiring rehabilitation and follows nationally agreed guidance. 

“A senior infection control consultant nurse has been based at the hospital since April in addition to the infection control staff already providing advice to the hospital to provide expert advice to medical and nursing staff.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said it was continuing to monitor incidents of Covid in hospitals to "ensure patient safety."