AN independent investigation must be launched into the spread of coronavirus in hospitals after it emerged more than 900 patients were infected while in for other treatment, Scottish Labour has demanded.
It emerged that 908 patients caught the disease in non-coronavirus wards, with at least 218 dying since the start of the outbreak.
Scotland’s Health Secretary Jeane Freeman has been accused of keeping the true figure a secret “for as long as possible” after stating on Thursday there were only 125 “incidents” of suspected Covid-19 transmission in hospital.
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But in response to questions from the Herald, the Scottish Government disclosed a much higher number of infected patients and, later, the number of people believed to have subsequently died with the disease.
Scottish Labour has now called for an independent inquiry into the “absolutely shocking” infection rate and “lack of candour” from the Government.
The Scottish Conservatives have also called for Freeman to make an urgent statement to Parliament, accusing her of attempting to mislead the public.
Monica Lennon, Scottish Labour’s health spokeswoman who originally asked for the number of infections outside specialised wards, said: “It’s absolutely shocking that almost 1000 people have caught Covid-19 in Scottish hospitals and the Scottish Government kept it a secret for as long as possible.
“It’s scandalous that this information had to be dragged out of the Scottish Government and they should be ashamed they said nothing for so long.
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“The whole time they’ve been telling the public to stay at home in order to protect the NHS they failed to mention that the virus was spreading through our hospitals.
“These outbreaks coincide with older people being discharged from hospitals into care homes.
“An urgent independent inquiry is needed. We need to know how many of the patients who were infected in these hospital outbreaks were discharged into care homes, in the rush to empty the hospitals, and did any of them die from the infection.
“The First Minister and the Health Secretary can’t hide behind patient confidentiality like they did over the Nike cover-up. They must explain their lack of candour and apologise to everyone who has been affected.”
Miles Briggs (above), the Scottish Conservatives’ health spokesman, said: “It is utterly shocking how misleading the SNP Government has been regarding the number of hospital cases of Covid, and the number of deaths from those cases.
“Families across Scotland demand to know the truth.
“The SNP Government still hasn’t given us full information about these hospital-based cases in which over 200 patients tragically died.
“The Health Secretary must now answer if these deaths were known about prior to the mass exodus to care homes, how the virus spread within hospitals and if patients’ families have been informed fully.
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“I have called yet again for Jeane Freeman to come before the Scottish Parliament next week and explain herself and this latest attempt by SNP ministers to mislead the public.
“The handling of this matter is a total shambles, just typical of the contradiction and confusion that now dominates the SNP Government’s approach to this crisis.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The health and safety of patients and hospital staff remains our absolute priority.
“Any death resulting from Covid-19 is a tragedy which is why we are working tirelessly to reduce the infection rates and treat and support all those who have been affected by or suffered from the virus.
“Any claims that the Scottish Government has sought to mislead or hide figures are utterly unfounded.
“We are committed to transparency and openness while ensuring that all figures that are published have first been robustly validated to ensure accuracy.”