A MOTHER has told how her four-day-old baby was wrapped in a towel riddled with “choking hazard” bits of plastic after being told that Glasgow’s super hospital had no blankets left.
Michelle Loch was admitted to ward 47 at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital, in Govan, with newborn son, Samuel, on Sunday night after the infant struggled to feed.
However, the first-time mother from Bearsden, in East Dunbartonshire, asked to be discharged hours later amid fears he would be “better off at home” after she was given a towel to swaddle him in and a pillowcase in place of a mattress protector for his cot because clean bedding supplies had run out.
Ms Loch, 40, said: “I went to ask the charge nurse ‘do you have blankets for our baby?’ and she said ‘nope, there’s no blankets left in the entire hospital, but we’ve got some towels that you can use’.
“So they gave us these threadbare, horrible towels that you wouldn’t even give anyone to dry themselves with after a shower, and they’re being given to this tiny baby.
“And I don’t know what it was, but there were these hard plastic coils in the towels that we were constantly finding and having to pick out, which was a choking hazard as well if we hadn’t found them.
“I had Sam in his cot and then he was sick, so I asked if I could have another mattress cover and, again, it the same response: ‘there’s not one mattress cover left in the entire maternity unit’.
“So they sent us away with a pillowcase instead to put down on his bed. It was an experience you don’t expect to have in the UK.”
The QEUH is currently at the centre of an ongoing public inquiry into hospital infections among cancer patients – many of them young children – potentially linked to the building’s water supply and ventilation systems.
Baby Samuel had been delivered by caesarean at 38 weeks at the QEUH last Wednesday, and Ms Loch stresses that the staff were “amazing” – but overstretched.
She said: “As soon as we went up to the ward – ward 47 – it was very evident that they were completely understaffed and there were just too many mothers and babies there.
“The staff actually told us that they were running over capacity.
“You weren’t getting the attention that I guess a new mother needs and, again, it’s nothing to do with the staff – the facilities just weren’t there and there weren’t enough staff, and I guess we’re just on the receiving end of that.
“When we first had the baby on Wednesday he had been a bit sick and I’d asked the nurse if we could get a new mattress.
“At five in the morning, on the day I had my section, I was told to get out of bed and she would show me where to get the laundry.
“So I had my baby in one arm – I’d just had my section – and had my catheter in the other hand and I’m getting dragged at five in the morning – because they were too busy to do it – to get a new mattress.
“There are so many wonderful nurses and doctors out there and obviously we’re really grateful for that, but it just highlights the stress they must be under.
“I was embarrassed for the nurse [on Sunday] night when she was telling me there were no blankets – in a maternity unit at the Queen Elizabeth hospital?”
Ms Loch, who attended the QEUH on Sunday night with partner Graham Kidd, said the couple quickly felt they did not want Sam to stay in the hospital overnight.
“We weren’t expecting to be admitted on Sunday night so we just had limited supplies,” said Ms Loch.
“I’d asked if we could have some extra nappies and at first they didn’t even think they had any nappies.
“They did manage to find some, but that’s insane – it’s a maternity hospital.
“We actually asked to get out because of the conditions – Sam was better off at home.
“The first ward was absolutely freezing – it wasn’t a comfortable environment for a newborn – so we got moved to another room, but that wasn’t much better.
“As soon as the wee one’s bloods came back and they were all fine we asked to see the paediatrician to ask if we could just go home because I felt Sam was better off in the comfort of his own home rather than in a freezing hospital ward with towels for blankets and a pillowcase for a mattress protector.
“We got discharged that night.”
Mr Kidd, a 45-year-old heating engineer, added: “The nurse said to us explicitly ‘we’re at a crisis situation’.
“That’s fair enough, but at 12 o’clock at night where on earth was I going to get supplies [for Sam]?
“I looked at the local Asda, Sainsbury’s – everything around that area was closed. Where was I expected to dive out and get provisions?”
In a statement, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: “We would like to thank Ms Loch for bringing this issue to our attention and we are happy to discuss any concerns she may have.
“There is no shortage of bed linen at the maternity site, with regular deliveries on five days out of seven of fresh sheets and pillowcases, and escalation processes which mean further linen can be delivered within 30 minutes of an order being placed.
“We have identified a recent period in one ward where shortages did arise and we have reminded staff of the escalation process to ensure this is not repeated.”
READ MORE: Thousands more under fives than normal receiving hospital treatment in Scotland amid RSV surge
It comes amid figures showing that hospital admissions for under-fives in Scotland soared to unusually high levels during September, piling pressure on neonatal and paediatric wards.
An unseasonal, and continuing, spike in respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) – a common winter virus which can be serious for infants and toddlers in particular – is partly to blame.
In total, just over 14,000 under-fives attended A&E departments across Scotland in the four weeks to September 26 – 41 per cent more than normal for the time of year – with 5,605 babies and pre-schoolers admitted to hospital, up by 1,090 compared to the pre-pandemic average.
The QEUH has also been in the spotlight as part of the ongoing Scottish Hospitals Inquiry.
On Friday, Aneeka Sohrab told how her her daughter, who was diagnosed with leukaemia aged 18 months, developed sepsis and fungal infections during treatment at the QEUH and its adjacent children’s hospital.
Ms Sohrab said: “We trusted the hospital with our children’s lives and I did not expect my child to go in and walk out with a potentially life-threatening bug on one occasion and on other occasions have infections linked to the hospital.”