Public Health Minister Maree Todd has come under fire for failing to follow her own government’s guidance on face coverings.
The Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP took off her mask while visiting her husband in hospital – just days before testing positive for Covid.
She insists she took the mask off after being advised she could do by staff at Raigmore Hospital – which is currently under so much pressure it is at code black – as her husband was in a private room.
NHS Highland’s medical director Dr Boyd Peters last night confirmed Ms Todd “may” have been given the wrong information, and said all staff had been reminded of the guidance.
But opposition leaders said Ms Todd should be well aware of the Scottish Government’s rules, and should have followed them regardless.
The blunder was revealed by Ms Todd herself, when she shared a photograph from a visit to see her husband at Raigmore Hospital’s critical care unit.
Posting on Twitter, she said she was delighted he was on the mend.
I’m sorry your other half was in need of CCU.
A little alarmed that in a critical care area you are mask free with door open and tested positive a few days later for COVID
Hope that you are both recovering .
— Rob Peel🏳️🌈💙🇬🇧🏴 (@rabpeel) July 5, 2021
Just a few days later, Ms Todd tested positive for Covid – sparking concern about her decision to remove her mask during the visit.
Consultant ‘alarmed’ by no mask
Responding to the Tweet from his own personal account, Raigmore’s renal consultant Rab Peel said he was a “little alarmed” she was not wearing a mask.
His message said: “I’m sorry your other half was in need of CCU. A little alarmed that in a critical care area you are mask free with door open and tested positive a few days later for Covid. Hope that you are both recovering.”
The MSP, who has self-isolated for 10 days at home, said she had been following “local guidance” when she opted to remove her mask.
Her spokeswoman said: “In common with all the patients in that unit, Mr Todd was in a single room.
“In line with local guidance, Ms Todd was advised that where members of the same household were in the room and no one else was present, they were free to take off their masks. Ms Todd followed this and all other guidance from staff.”
Staff reminded of government guidance
Last night, NHS Highland’s medical director Boyd Peters confirmed an investigation had been carried out and that Ms Todd had been given the wrong information.
Dr Peters said: “Our initial investigations suggest that unfortunately on this occasion, the wrong advice may have been given to the visitor.
“The correct national guidance has been reiterated to staff to ensure we are compliant with the appropriate guidance.”
The Scottish Government guidance around mask wearing in hospitals states: “Even when patients are in single rooms, they should wear a mask whenever anyone enters their room, ie including when receiving direct care or receiving visitors.”
Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon made it clear that face coverings would still remain important even if the country is moved to Level 0 on July 19.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who is a Highlands and Islands MSP and Moray MP, said: “It is the Scottish Government’s own guidance which states that hospital visitors are required to wear a facemask unless they are unable to do so.
“It’s also the case that Maree Todd tested positive for Covid soon after this visit and Raigmore Hospital had to declare ‘code black’ status, in large part due staff to having to self-isolate.
“I had to wear a facemask in hospital throughout the birth of my son last week and understand how uncomfortable they can be but they are necessary to protect staff and patients.
“We should all be mindful of the need to follow the public health guidance, particularly government ministers responsible for setting the rules.”